U.S. women's view from top: It's only the starting point

Where do U.S. women go from here?

A little more than seven months out from the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, they are on top of their game. Consider this ..

-- The USA is unbeaten in 2018 with a 16-0-2 record.
-- The USA is unbeaten in its last 26 matches (23-0-3), outscoring its opponents, 91-17.
-- The USA has not conceded a goal in 704 minutes, dating back to the game against Brazil at the Tournament of Nations in early August.

What is most impressive is who the USA has played in 2018. It has beaten nine opponents headed to the World Cup: Brazil, Canada, Chile (two times), China, England, Germany, Jamaica, Japan and Mexico (three times). Its only ties were against Australia, which will be one of the darkhorses next summer, and host France.

Yes, the opposition at the Concacaf Women's Championship was weak. The USA played the second-, third- and fourth-place teams at the tournament and beat them 2-0, 6-0 and 5-0. Jamaica is going to the Women's World Cup for the first time, but the USA led the Reggae Girlz, 5-0, after 33 minutes.

That doesn't take away from the fact the USA has what shapes up to be a special team with a magical midfield in Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz (photo) and Rose Lavelle. And it has all the pieces in place ahead of time. Which wasn't the case four years ago.

Concacaf Photo

The USA romped to its third world title with a 5-2 win over Japan in the 2015 Women's World Cup final, but it was very much a work in progress up until the semifinals in Canada.

U.S. Soccer changed coaches after the Algarve Cup in April 2014, firing Tom Sermanni and replacing him with Jill Ellis. But even as late as February 2015, four months before the World Cup, the USA was run off the field by France in Lorient.

Ertz wasn't inserted into the starting lineup -- at center back -- until the Algarve Cup in March 2015. And the USA didn't come together at the World Cup until Ellis settled on her central midfield in the 4-5-1 formation -- Lauren Holiday, Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd -- and Alex Morgan -- who was coming off a knee injury -- as the lone striker.

This time, Ellis has two things going for her: her lineup is set, and every key player is healthy (with the lone exception of Stanford defender Tierna Davidson). That's the scary part -- things can only go wrong from here.

After Wednesday's Canada game, Ellis insisted there is still room for improvement.

“It feels like a starting point in terms of where we want to be,” she said. "Every game we’ve played this year, it’s about preparing us for next summer. We can get better in every facet. To get this done, we certainly have to continue to make strides.”

There won't be much time for that. This is how the schedule shapes up between now and June 7 when the Women's World Cup kicks off:

-- Nov. 5-13:
Two games in Europe during FIFA window.
-- January:
Training camp in Europe in lieu of California camp.
-- Feb. 25-March 6:
SheBelieves Cup during FIFA window.
-- April 1-9:
Two games during FIFA window.
-- May:
Pre-World Cup training camp and three games in kickoff series.

3 comments about "U.S. women's view from top: It's only the starting point".
  1. R2 Dad, October 19, 2018 at 12:18 a.m.

    As mentioned, Ellis is ahead of where she was in 2015 so the final XI is well understood at this point. The risks are at keeper and outside backs. We still don't have a dominant keeper like Solo was, and if anything happens to Dunn/Ohara/Short we will be stretched thin. Last night proved we are one poor official away from an injury that could hinder our attack, force a change in midfield and/or formation. Still, we should be able to get to the semis easily unless we run into france/Australia/japan while carrying injuries to key personel. I assume FIFA will have a better selection of female officials to choose from than did CONCACAF for our qualification tourney.

  2. Bob Ashpole, October 19, 2018 at 2:14 p.m.

    This year's matches for the most part don't reflect what the USA will face at the finals. 

    The US has a lot of room for improvement in controlling play. That might seem a strange thing to say with this year's matches in the background, but this year's matches were not challenging enough to require the US to control the match.

    Against all opponents, the US needed to be better in the final third, especially with the last pass.

    The exceptional opponent being Canada and the US players had trouble controlling play in the middle third against it.

    Against all opponents, the US was rarely challenged in its defensive third. Keepers had little to do. Most opposition in the defensive third was opponents high pressing. Not a lot of practice defending. Few corners even. Most balls were won back by the midfielders in the middle third.

    In summary a lot of the play this year was sedate compared to what will come at the finals. 

  3. R2 Dad replied, October 19, 2018 at 10:17 p.m.

    Good points, Bob.

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