Crisis Averted! At least for now. The USWNT beats Germany 2-1
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Nov. 14, 2022
The United States avoided its first four-game losing streak ever with a 2-1 victory over Germany on Sunday. The kids saved the day, with Sophia Smith scoring the equalizer and Mal Pugh getting the game-winner some two minutes later in the second half.
There were a lot of “THE SKY IS FALLING!” takes, and just as many “DON’T PANIC” screeds. I’m not gonna take a side. Let’s just look at the facts.
THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TURNOVER
The team is in a rebuilding phase, playing the new kids and developing young talent. That was the promise after the Tokyo Games and Carli Lloyd’s departure. Vlatko Andonovski made good on that vow, he has developed talent. I don’t know if the changes in the team would have been as dramatic under Jill Ellis. Would Sam Coffey be getting a look? Taylor Korniek? Maybe not.
But this definitely isn’t the Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press attack that many of us envisioned after the last World Cup. Julie Ertz was supposed to play a big role in the future, too. I think I even wrote a Soccer Monday post on what the team was going to look like.
Then along came Sophia Smith. Mal Pugh had a dramatic rebirth. Catarina Macario became a citizen and got cleared to play for the USA. A lot of things happened that we didn’t necessarily see in the last cycle.
This team is young, and there are going to be growing pains.
THERE ARE A LOT OF INJURIES
Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz had babies, and a bunch of players got injured, including but not limited to Macario, Sam Mewis, Tierna Davidson, Christen Press and Lynn Williams. Others fell out of favor.
Chemistry takes a long time to build, and can be thrown off by the smallest of changes. Just look at the 2019-20 Golden State Warriors.
OTHER TEAMS ARE INDEED GETTING BETTER
On the opposite side of the equation, yes, other teams across the globe are getting better. Hello England! Even teams in CONCACAF that were barely fielding teams four years ago are now performing competently on the international stage. More opportunities in professional leagues have created better players.
FIRING ANDONOVSKI AT THIS POINT IS A BAD IDEA
The World Cup is eight months away. A new coach at this point would be a disaster.
THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF OUTSIDE NOISE AND TUMULT
I don’t think many of us can appreciate how emotionally draining this team has been. There have been incredible highs with the Equal Pay settlement and resulting contract. There have been incredible lows. I can’t imagine anyone reading the Yates report and not being stunned. My heart still hurts for those who were impacted, and those whose stories we don’t know yet.
THERE ARE STILL PROBLEMS TO ADDRESS
After the first loss to Germany, Andonovski said the high press was a something the team needed to work on. He was right, and adjusted in the second match. But let’s face it, there’s not going to be that kind of opportunity to adjust in the World Cup. The team is going to need to be more adept at responding on the fly.
The United States needs to be more physical. Seriously, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan can’t be the only bruisers on the team. And there’s also the team’s sluggishness to adjust went new players are subbed in.
And this is just an opinion, but maybe the U.S. has gotten a bit complacent. They need to be waaayyy meaner. I think that first loss to Germany may have shaken the team a bit, and that’s a good. thing. Better now than later.
And with that, my Soccer Monday year is coming to a close. I’m off to Qatar and then taking the rest of the year off. I’ll have a year-ender in December that’s just gonna recap the highlights of 2022, but I think our fearless leader Howard Megdal has rounded up someone to sub in for me in the 80th minute for the weekly posts. Hopefully I’ll see you all in the New Year, unless my replacement is way better than me. Could go either way. Love to all and happy holidays!
Sophie Lawson wrote the ESPN recap of the USWNT’s turnaround win.
Jason Anderson for USA Today on the match.
The great Gwendolyn Oxenham wrote about Carson Pickett for ESPN.
Jonathan Tannenwald from the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the USWNT’s shortcomings.
Tannenwald also covered Sunday’s win.
Jessa Braun for Just Women’s Sports looks at the four players who have impressed Andonovski.
Steph Yang and Meg Linehan looked at the USWNT’s issues for The Athletic.
Emma Hruby from JWS recaps Carli Lloyd’s Twitter comments about the USWNT.
Travis Clark for MLS Next wrote about the Thompsons.
Interesting story in The Sporting News on knee injuries and women’s soccer.
Good explainer from JWS on NWSL expansion.
Alex Azzi from On Her Turf wrote a nice story on soccer being a job.
I liked this Equalizer story from Antonio Maza on NWSL tactical shifts in 2022.
Sandra Herrera writes for CBS about the Pride naming Seb Hines coach.
Clare Brennan for SI on Sophia Smith’s rise.
Speaking of Sophia Smith, here’s what she said after Sunday’s win:
Question: How satisfied are you with the way things are going?
Smith: I mean, it’s a process, I think we are definitely growing, in every single game that we have. This is a newer group, you know, there’s there’s not the chemistry of lots of years of playing together. So, building that chemistry in every game that we play, we have the chance to do that. So I mean, we’re happy with this result but we have so much farther to go and we know that we can be so much better. I think that’s exciting because we don’t want to be peaking right now. We want to peak when the World Cup comes. Just continuing to grow and trust the process. I think we’re in a good place.
Question: How important was the win?
Smith: I think it was huge. No one wants to go into the New Year with four losses in a row. We especially don’t. Three losses suck so we wanted to make sure that we put this one away so that we can go into next year feeling confident but also knowing that we have room to grow and we have things to work on.
Question. You’re the second person with at least 11 goals int he NWSL season and national team in the same calendar year, joining Abby Wambach?
Smith: That’s great. I consider myself a goal scorer. Getting goals is really important to me, but at the same time, it’s whatever I can do to help both teams that I’m playing on. And if that’s scoring goals, that’s great, it that’s just working hard, that’s what I’ll do. I mean, it’s great and it’s exciting, and it gives me you know, confidence going into next year being a younger player on this team. It helps me feel confident going into games.