Commentary

Why USWNT needs to play Paraguay for more reasons than you'd think

The U.S. women's national team has a scheduling problem.

If you saw it beat Paraguay, 9-0 and 8-0, you might have asked, "What's the point?"

Within minutes of the opening kickoff in Cleveland, it was evident these two matches would be no-contests. I tweeted that the USWNT has had to line up a lot of bad teams in the last year, but Paraguay was the worst. I got pushback from some women's soccer supporters, calling me "mean" and a "gringo" who tweeted stupid things about an underfunded team.

Both USA-Paraguay friendlies ended up being blowouts. Indeed, the USA has never before won back-to-back games by eight or more goals outside of qualifying play within Concacaf.

Why play games against a clearly inferior opponent when the USA needs to start rebuilding its national team following the disappointment of Olympic bronze?

First of all, the process of building toward the next big event, the USA's defense of its World Cup title in 2023, won't begin until November. As part of its collective bargaining agreement with the USWNTPA,  U.S. Soccer is obligated to call in the 22 players on the Olympic team. (They can opt out on their own, or pull out if injured.)

Three players who weren't part of the Olympic roster -- Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith and Andi Sullivan -- were added as replacement players, and they did quite well, combining for three goals and five assists in the two wins.

Frankly, U.S. Soccer didn't have many good options if it wanted play a pair of home games during the September window. (Olympic gold-medalist Canada didn't even play at all.)

The Covid-19 pandemic hindered scheduling during the pre-Olympic preparations. Japan pulled out of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup and was replaced by Argentina. Following the SheBelieves Cup, the USA played five warmup games at home, and none was against a team bound for the Olympics. It won them all by shutout, which brushed over many of the problems it was going to have at the Olympics.

Hopefully, Covid-19 won't be around forever, but some fundamental issues on the women's soccer landscape will remain.

More and more, the balance of power in women's soccer is concentrated in Europe, which limits the U.S. Soccer scheduling options if it wants to play the best competition and continue to play most of its games at home, all for good reasons: build its fanbase, reward its players with matches before huge crowds, often in their hometowns, collect hefty ticket gates and fulfill commercial obligations (on-site activations).

The problem is, most of the best teams in the world are based in Europe. And no other confederation offers the year-round programming for women's national teams that UEFA does. It is the only confederation that offers home-and-away group play for Women's World Cup qualifying and well as for qualifying for the Women's Euros.

For the next year, it will be almost impossible to schedule European teams as just about every UEFA window is taken up with World Cup qualifying. (There are a few byes during which the USA could play European teams, but it would involve playing in Europe.) The big exception is the February 2022 window when the USA hosts the SheBelieves Cup.

European federations are also getting into the act of organizing tournaments of their own, however. England, the Euro 2022 host, has already lined up Germany and Spain for its new four-team tournament. The French federation started its own women's tournament in 2020 but had to scale back its 2021 tournament when two teams pulled out due to the pandemic.

There are, of course, a few teams outside Europe that can offer competitive matches. Canada, Brazil, Australia and Japan, all past participants in U.S. Soccer's SheBelieves Cup or Tournament of Nations, come to mind. For the USWNT to get the year-round competition it needs to remain at peak form, those numbers have to grow.

In many ways, the problem is not dissimilar to what is going on on the men's side. The push to add more confederation competitions (Concacaf Nations League, UEFA Nations League) has forced the USMNT to accept a steady diet of Concacaf opponents and all but eliminated opportunities to play friendly games.

On the women's side, the USWNT won't be tied down to entering the qualifying stages of Concacaf's two new women's competitions, but it does need for the level of play to rise dramatically across Concacaf and Conmebol, where women's soccer has been historically neglected.

Funding is increasing, though. The September window saw unprecedented activity among Concacaf and Conmebol teams. USA-Paraguay was just one of six friendly series that took place.

It might take generations for national teams like Paraguay to be competitive, but it's in the USWNT's interest to accelerate the process.

In a few cases, it might take shaming the federations of opposing teams by exposing the gap that exists.

19 comments about "Why USWNT needs to play Paraguay for more reasons than you'd think".
  1. frank schoon, September 24, 2021 at 10:14 a.m.

    "But it's in the USWNT's interest to accelerate the process."  Really???  Perhaps if we beat Paraguay 120-0 that should really wake up those BIG TIME woman soccer fans in Paraguay to get women soccer going in Paraguay. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!!!  

    Do you really think after Paraguay got beat so bad in these last two games, talk in the Paraguayan  pubs or whatever, is about those damn gringos beating our women's team and that calls for something to be done . South American attitude towards women is soooo far below par as compared to us, being sofar off the chart of recognition. In South America it is about MEN soccer, PERIOD!!  

    Even in Europe the interest in women soccer  just isn't there ,even though it's organized better and funded by MEN'S club, I guess for PC purposes, which already says enough for women's soccer wouldn't survive on just on crowd draw in Europe.... Why hasn't SA done a good article on attendances in Europe on women's games, where do the women draw their salaries....

    We in the US live in a bubble as far as women soccer expectations go elsewhere...To think that beating South American women's big time is really will initiate women's interest.....I don't think so.

    Maybe ,just maybe there is chance if Brazil's women become the world attraction like the men's team in soccer for women than perhaps interest will be steered. That will steer interest in South American women soccer. Can you imagine the Brazilian team with 11 Cissys what a joy it would be to watch instead of the clod hoppers , stiffs, we have that beating the competition we face, left and right with physicality, athleticism, with just a sprinkling of cute move here and there....

     No, the way I see it for women's soccer to draw interest is for Brazil to become the capitol for WOMEN SOCCER where's beauty, a regalness with the ball is shown that we currently don't have to put fans into stadium. And I mean real soccer fans, not those who have no clue about the game , who worry more about wearing their team colors, and bringing their tooters. Real fans that would enjoy the game and even talk about the game in  pubs.....

  2. R2 Dad, September 24, 2021 at 11:30 a.m.

    Look, I get that we should support the confederation development and play all these meaningless matches against overpowered teams. Women's contract aside, we could turn this into a positive thing by calling in a big group of U21 and U18 girls to the full Nats camp, and play them in these matches alongside starters. If our opponents are basically fielding uni teams, we should be able to throw some of ours in there as well to make this a bigger challenge for everyone. Make some errors, make our back line struggle, play different formations. Or is "development" only for the small teams?

  3. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2021 at 12:47 p.m.

    R2 Exactly, I would love to see intra-squad game, with the mix of talent and vets. What would be more interesting to see and look how our talent functions. I'll betcha you can sell tickets for this. I definitely would watch with interest.....

  4. Bob Ashpole, September 24, 2021 at 1:05 p.m.

    First point: Despite all the disagreement on this forum about US Soccer, we know where we are and where we want to be. Even Santi with the all-caps "Just Win Baby" posts would prefer we won with style to winning ugly. His point is he rather win ugly than lose pretty. Even there I think we are all in agreement. This isn't a WNT problem, it is a MNT problem too and a problem from the bottom of the soccer pyramid to the top. 

    Second point: We complain about USSF, but we don't need USSF to improve soccer in this country. For instance Anson Dorrance has supplied more WNT players than any other program in the country. Whether he finds them or makes them doesn't matter. He supplies them. The vast majority of soccer programs in this country supply "zero" national team players. So one or two programs can have a huge impact on the national teams. It is like Field of Dreams--if you have the best players in the country, USSF will come. All it takes is one or two programs successful through superior technique and the superior tactics that allows. The copycats will follow.

    For all I know there may be some of those kinds of successful programs all ready. At the professional level, we have had brief flings at that kind of program, but for whatever reason they didn't last. Also the largely depended on foreign players who didn't play for the USA.

    We have a few promising players, both men and women, who could be playing a more technical game. But we have the same problems as Ajax, Barca and others. The techical style of play at those clubs was the vision and work of a few talented individuals. Those individuals moved on and eventually the club looses interest in continuing someone else's vision.

    I have heard it put differently by a women's college coach who teaches possession style play: you have to have patience and dedication to be a possession style team. It isn't easy and it isn't quick. It requires a long term commitment by the entire team and staff.

    That is what we are missing in the US. The resolve and commitment to play better soccer. Why? Because soccer at the top is a business run by business people. What they see is that for business success they only have to be a little better than this week's opponent. In the EPL, they only need to be good enough to avoid the relegation zone. In the Championship, they only need to be good enough to win promotion to have a chance at a share of the EPL broadcast money.

    We need someone with a business plan that includes playing great soccer, not just good enough soccer, and developing players to play better soccer, not just looking at the Moneyball approach of looking for bargains.  

  5. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2021 at 1:36 p.m.

    Bob , I disagree with you on people moving and losing a style of play. Ajax is known world wide for the past 60 years their style of soccer and how they want to play. And yes there is a hiccups or a bump on the road at times but the Ajax, Barca DNA won't change just like Real Madrids that just buys players.

    You are right with certain individuals leaving a team, like Guardiola did with Bayern. It was short but with Ajax it has been this way for over 50years. You don't get rid of that DNA, just like you dont' get rid of the German DNA of turbo, and running....

    Soccer is business at Ajax too, but their business is to play Ajax style and if a coach is unable to win coaching the Ajax style he is fired and will get another coach. The Ajax fans won't except any other type of style of soccer because they've been reared and brought with exciting soccer that also as result produces great players 

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2021 at 7:53 p.m.

    Frank, I hope you are correct about Ajax not losing their way. I have had them on a pedestal since the 70s.

  7. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2021 at 8:15 p.m.

    First of all Ajax will only obtain players that fit in the Ajax style of soccer. It is difficult first of all to buy a player who is brought in a 442 system or a player who running as a way to play instead letting the ball due the running.
    playing #9 that just lays off balls to up upcoming mids likewise is not wanted. Need backs that good one on one attacking skills. Defenders have to do more than play defense, but have to handle a ball after stopping an attacker.
    The goalie has to have good ball placing techniques. The style of playing within 433 takes a lot of thinking , more so than where running is a bigger part. The position game that involves knowing who to pass before getting the ball. This brings the aspect of good ball handling ability under pressure in small spaces.....in sum Bob, these are some aspects , but you can there is lot more having the Ajax DNA, that sets them apart. 

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, September 25, 2021 at 9:29 a.m.

    Frank.. Wikipedia 
    Ajax; 30 players Listed
    11 Dutch 
    But, 3 of those are GKs...4 are Defenders(including Blind)
    Unfortunately, Ajax NOT any Different than other "Sell On" clubs

  9. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2021 at 10:41 a.m.

    Santiago, Ajax has always bought players throughout their history as long as they fit in their system and style of play.

    They only bought  players who can make a difference to the team. But that is not the issue, Bob mentioned about Ajax losing their style of play due to individuals leaving.
    That will happen with Man.City when Guardiola leaves or look at Chelsea with Tuchel and Lampard. Or just look at what is happening in German soccer ,overal ,specifically Bayern. But with Ajax NEVER because this how Ajax wants to play which is exciting, technical and smart play. The fans won't stand for stupid soccer .They soccer played as pure as possible as Beckenbauer describes it. For example, you'll never a dutch back ram a ball into stands, which at times you should do, but at Ajax the fans will let you how they don't appreciate that. They expect with the talent ,skills and brains to find a solution.

    Cruyff made the mistake of buying an English striker and later admitted his mistake but it took a while for him to figure this out, it wasn't easy. The style of how an English striker plays slowed down the Ajax attack because a long balls to strikers up front takes time and then they lay off the ball to upcoming midfielders..etc.  

    Whenever Ajax does buy a players it is very difficulty for them for many come from teams who play defensive in nature whereas Ajax LOVES playing OFFENSE, for the see offense as the best form of defense. Because of their it is more difficult to find those types of players, whereas other normal don't have that problem 

    Did you see Chelsea vs City today.....Tuchel is such defensive counterattacking coach , with no creativity and watch City play.  I just feel sorry for Pulisic for he learned to play Turbo at Dortmunt comes to England playing for another/ or same German coach, Tuchel of all Turbo coaches....I'm sorry if Pulisic is going to grow as a player he needs to leave Chelsea for he's not learning the finer elements of the game. What a waste!!!!!


  10. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2021 at 10:50 a.m.

    Santiago, yes, Ajax sells players because they are a small country who don't have a large base to obtain money like England , Spain , Germany , Italy,etc and therefore have to rely on getting money by selling their players, from time to time. That is more noble than throwing money to buy players like the other teams like Real Madrid who can afford that. 

    Develop the player like Ajax use them for a few years than sell them for that is the only way to compete these days with other big clubs who don't care about developing....

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2021 at 1:16 p.m.

    I agree with Frank about the foreign players. The first thing I remember is that I remember about Total Soccer is that Michels filled in the holes in his team with foreign players. So it isn't the nationality that matters but the quality of the player.

  12. Santiago 1314 replied, September 26, 2021 at 12:42 a.m.

    Frank, I did see Tuchel and his Disaster today... I thought i was watching Jose Mourino coaching a BAD Bunker version of the USMNT... Why would you go away from your Mental success over Pep,  and play such a style... It was Sure to Lose,,, In this case I will agree with Bob, Sort of, If you are going to Lose; Lose with some Style and Dignity... I really think the Bubble Burst on Tuchel today; That's been his Modis Operandi...Similiar to Mourinho... 2 year cycle of Fury and Passion and Brilliance, Followed by Implosion, Insecurity,  Infighting and Eventual FIRING.!!!

  13. frank schoon replied, September 26, 2021 at 9:07 a.m.

    Santiago,  this Tuchel is an anethema do the game of soccer. Never allow him to coach a MLS team. He'll take this country back exactly perhaps only one day in the US development of soccer for that is about all I think the US furthered it's player development in the past 50years.

    Yeah, Tuchel was successfu with Chelsea but that is it for what well he have contributed to the growth of Chelsea's player development....perhaps RUN, RABBIT, RUN. This guy has no creativity, not a bone of it. His strategy is to play defense and hope one of his Turbos will score and it doesn't matter how....This is why I would support a Pep type over this idiot...

    Wow, Poor CP's major development as a player was/is turbo soccer because he learned to play turbo in a turbo country, Germany, then under the tutelage of a turbo team mentality employed by Dortmunt, and then under the same coach in Germany and in England....I mean, Santi, come on, if you can't see why I call CP a turbo player for everything he does ,his first thought in his mind is turbo....that's to be expected, for that is how he's been trained. Ziyech that came over from Ajax is not a turbo player, for he didn't develop playing that style but a style of technique and street smart. He's like a fish out of water at Chelsea, but he is the best technical, and smartest, hands down at Chelsea. 

    It was Frank Lampard that brought Ziyech to Chelsea for all the players wanted him. Lampard was not given the time to build a nice soccer playing squad. So now we have Tuchel's robots who only needed to be greased and oiled for each game...Like their coach( someon else we know),who was simple 2nd division defender, there is no creativity taught on this team. 

     The problem is that he grew up in a Turbo environment as pro which means he will not learn the finer aspects . ...Go watch Ajax ,their right wing, Antony, who is called up for the Brazilian National team....check this guy out. This is his second season at Ajax, he's youn(18) and wonderful to watch and play. NO TURBO ofcourse...

    This is why I enjoy the Ajax way of doings things, play a high level style of soccer, don't cut corners. The fans will not have a Tuchel at Ajax, for this kind of garbage ball is not wanted in Holland

  14. Santiago 1314, September 25, 2021 at 9:08 a.m.

    Bob,
    1st Point;
    "LOSE BABY, LOSE..Just Play Pretty.!!!"
    Doesn't have a very Good Ring to it
    2nd Point;
    Which sport in the USA plays "Pretty".???
    Salary Caps and Free Agency make it Impossible to do anything but play Analytics and Money Ball...
    Occasionally a "Beautiful Game" breaks Out somewhere, but it's Few and Far Between. Sad, but it's the Real World we Live in... Wonder what the Soccers like in Heaven.???

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2021 at 1:11 p.m.

    Basketball. At least it used to before Jordan retired. I can't help mentioning the Harlem Globetrotters.

    What is the ugliest sport? Hockey, by far. Especially, minor league hockey.

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2021 at 1:12 p.m.

    PS: You made me laugh so hard I choked.

  17. Gary Levitt, September 25, 2021 at 10:32 a.m.

    Paul, I try to not chime in with a difference of opinion unless I have a solution. I am not sure of what options the USWNT had for opponents in the run up and post-Olympic Games....but a 17-0 aggregate against an opponent does NO good. Did everyone lose sight of the poor performance in Tokyo? Did our manager have the the wrong player pool, the wrong tactics, or the incorrect rotation of players with the tight schedule? To me, our players were undercut by the lack of opposition in the run up - and now post Olympics we schedule not one, but two games against Paraguay?  Sorry I don't have a clear cut solution but the go-forward with playing inferior opponents does no favors to anyone.  justmytake

  18. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2021 at 10:42 a.m.

    Gary, well put......

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2021 at 1:23 p.m.

    My impression was that the current coach did not have a plan for the tournament like Ellis did. That means he wasn't working toward the team peaking after the group stage. As a result they were flat after the group stage. Being flat during the group stage is a common pattern with eventual champions.

    Ellis is a tough act to follow. She was the best in the world at managing tournaments. Even with Ellis it was a learning process. I would call for a new coach except that I honestly don't know of any coach as good as Ellis was during that last cycle.

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