Final U.S. women's report card: Steady backline led class

By Mike Woitalla

After the USA's amazing 5-2 final win over Japan, in which it had a 2-0 edge after five minutes and a 4-0 lead after 16 minutes, it’s easy to forget that the Americans were slow out of the gate at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

The American midfield struggled to keep sustained possession in its opener against Australia, which had the USA tied 1-1 at halftime and could have been ahead but for a couple of big early saves by Hope Solo. Second-half goals by Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe earned the Americans a 3-1 win.

The second game, a scoreless tie with the Swedes, would be the weakest performance from the USA. But one number stood out on the scoresheet following that match: The “0” next to the number of saves Solo was required to make against the Swedes.

The U.S. backline, which after a couple shaky moments against the Aussies, was simply superb. Not just preventing foes from penetrating the penalty area, but also clever with the ball at their feet.

Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg -- the backline, right to left – started all seven games and took four of the five top spots when we averaged our Soccer America report cards from the entire tournament.

The solid backline bought time for Coach Jill Ellis to tweak the formation and for the attackers to find their rhythm. Individually, Lauren Holiday, Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian and Carli Llloyd kept improving as the USA advanced.

After subdued performances in group play, Lloyd scored in each of the knockout-stage games and earned a perfect 10 with a hat trick in the final. It was no ordinary hat trick, but two goals within the first five minutes and a third, two minutes after Holiday made it 3-0, that was struck from the halfway line. Lloyd’s goals alone were enough to clinch the USA’s third World Cup.

The USA, after winning early games without playing extraordinary soccer, improved steadily and peaked in the biggest game of them all -- scoring more goals against Japan than the Japanese had conceded in its previous six games.

Team Ratings:
5.42 USA-Australia 3-1 (Report Card)
4.77 USA-Sweden 0-0 (Report Card)
5.75 USA-Nigeria 1-0 (Report Card)
5.25 USA-Colombia 2-0 (Report Card)
5.83 USA-China 1-0 (Report Card)
6.31 USA-Germany 2-0 (Report Card)
6.83 USA-Japan 5-2 (Report Card)

Player Ratings:
6.86 Meghan Klingenberg Grades 6/7/7/6/6/8/8
6.43 Julie Johnston Grades 5/8/8/6/8/6/4
6.43 Becky Sauerbrunn Grades 5/7/7/6/7/6/7
6.17 Megan Rapinoe Grades 8/4/6/6/-/6/7
6.14 Ali Krieger Grades 5/7/6/6/6/6/7
6.14 Carli Lloyd Grades 5/3/5/5/7/8/10
6.00 Kelly O'Hara Grades -/-/-/-/-/7/5
5.80 Alex Morgan Grades NR/NR/6/7/4/6/6
5.80 Morgan Brian Grades NR/4/-/4/6/7/8
5.33 Tobin Heath Grades 6/-/4/4/5/5/8
5.28 Hope Solo Grades 7/5/5/5/5/5/5
5.00 Lauren Holiday Grades 4/3/5/5/-/6/7
5.00 Christen Press Grades 6/3/-/NR/6/-/-
4.40 Abby Wambach Grades 3/4/6/3/NR/6/NR
4.00 Sydney Leroux Grades 5/3/4/-/-/NR/-
4.00 Amy Rodriguez Grades -/4/-/-/4/-/-
NR Christie Rampone Grades -/-/NR/-/-/-/NR

One Game:
NR Shannon Boxx Grades -/-/NR/-/-/-/-
NR Heather O'Reilly Grades -/-/-/-/NR/-/-
NR Lori Chalupny Grades -/-/-/NR/-/-/-

No Games:
Whitney Engen Grades -/-/-/-/-/-/-
Ashlyn Harris Grades -/-/-/-/-/-/-
Alyssa Naeher Grades -/-/-/-/-/-/-

NR=no rating.
-=did not play.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

8 comments about "Final U.S. women's report card: Steady backline led class".
  1. Ric Fonseca, July 8, 2015 at 11:29 p.m.

    Hey Mike were you a teacher in your previous career? Did you rank on a curve? The fractions of a point are interesting or are these ratings something new? I thought that A Rod should've been given a higher score... yet it is an interesting report card! Still, my amigo, methinks that you're just too harsh in your "grading" system, yet kudos to the ladies, and a JOB WELL DONE!!!

  2. Allan Lindh, July 8, 2015 at 11:45 p.m.

    For my two cents, the problem with the USWNT for a long time has been the absence of mid-fielders who could receive the ball, have a sense of the space and people around them, move with the ball if needed until they could make an intelligent pass that was complete, useful, and not a hospital ball. Once Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath were together in the mid-field, that problem was solved. From the moment they were together, the US was a soccer team that was a pleasure to watch. Without them, they hurt. Those two ladies deserve higher marks. They connected the front and the back, they didn't create problems for the back line, and they freed Lloyd, Rapinoe, sometimes Press or O'Hara, and Holliday to do their thing, and the rest was history. And Heather O'Reily deserves a special award for being such a bundle of positive energy on the bench while her heart must have been dying on her chest, for not ever seeing the field in her last WC.

  3. John Soares, July 9, 2015 at 12:38 p.m.

    Ric, a note (with best of intentions), ARod was a compliment when "Alex" was the best thing in Baseball. Now the comparison is anything but a compliment.

  4. Glenn Maddock, July 9, 2015 at 4:24 p.m.

    Report Card?
    When you win the World Cup, you don't need a report card. That's as good as it gets.

  5. Eddie Frill, July 9, 2015 at 4:26 p.m.

    Agree with Allan. I thought our mid-field was bad early on. I felt like we had 4 defenders and 6 forwards. Not everyone can charge the goal and just worry about scoring. TBH I thought Carli Lloyd was messing up the mid-field and the key was just letting her worry about attacking. Amazing what getting folks in proper position can do. I'm giving my special award to Amy Rodriguez. Her defense and pressure in the attacking third set the whole tone for China win and set the game plan for the rest of the tournament. You need that pressure from all the players for it to work, and Abby can't or didn't provide that.

  6. Santiago 1314, July 9, 2015 at 4:34 p.m.

    Agree with Glenn, 10 for Everyone, and 11 for Lloyd and Ellis (She Figured it out properly)

  7. Thomas Hosier, July 10, 2015 at 9:57 a.m.

    I'll agree with Santiago ... a 10 for everyone. Well done Ladies! Can you see the 4th star on the horizon? USA!

  8. Alex G. Sicre, July 11, 2015 at 6:01 p.m.

    A great big ten for everyone,Period.

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