USWNT overcomes distractions while Colombia struggles

Ray Curren April 11, 2016 37
Julie Johnston, left, and Crystal Dunn after the U.S. throttled Colombia again. (photo copyright:  EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

Julie Johnston, left, and Crystal Dunn after the U.S. throttled Colombia again. (photo copyright: EriMacPhoto for The Equalizer)

The comparisons between the UConn women’s basketball team and the U.S. women’s national soccer team – brought to the fore again this week by the complete dominance of both (although not too long ago, we were told parity was ending both, but I digress) – have some merit.

For me, the most apt resemblance is the way both just destroy, mentally and physically, overmatched opponents with a cold, clinical, heartless professionalism. There had to be some sympathy for Colombia from the U.S., just four days after crushing them 7-0 in Connecticut with Colombia missing many of their stars (more on than in a second) and woefully out of game shape seeing as Wednesday’s game was its first since last July.

[MORE: Johnston braces leads U.S. over Colombia again]

Instead, the U.S. swarmed Colombia from the opening kickoff, using a high press that was conspicuously absent from some of the early games of the Jill Ellis era to make the Colombians miserable at every turn. In the end, it finished 3-0 at a sold out Talen Energy Stadium just outside Philadelphia, but with some better finishing – and without a spectacular goalkeeping performance from Miami’s (and Boca Raton native) Catalina Perez, it could have matched the 7-0 score from earlier in the week.

The UConn/USWNT comparison falls apart a bit, though, when you realize that many of the other 350 Division I teams chasing UConn have most of the same resources (thanks to Title IX) to do so. While UConn enjoys a few advantages, like previous success and a large fan base, hypothetically all the other major conference teams should be spending almost as much money to try to catch up.

Meanwhile, Colombia played without many of its best players. Without disrespecting FOX, who did a fine job at the World Cup, it seemed that Julie Foudy and Monica Gonzalez had a little more information on Colombia’s plight, including that Lady Andrade (who is in Western New York camp and was reportedly at the game in Hartford Wednesday) and Daniela Montoya were being “punished” for “misbehaving” by coach Felipe Taborda for speaking out about the lack of pay and training Colombia had.

Even with a little wiggle room for translation, those are not words a coach of adults should be using toward his players, and benching people for speaking their mind is not generally going to win over many fans (after they had captured so many at last summer’s World Cup). Adding insult to censorship, Taborda sat Yoreli Rincon Sunday until the 87th minute playing in front of her trainer (and Carli Lloyd’s) James Galanis. Taborda denied benching Rincon after the match, but when you get comments like this from others, it makes you wonder:

Foudy and Gonzalez also reported one of the main reasons that Colombia played zero games in nine months was because Taborda is also the coach of the U-17 and U-20 squads and they (both pretty successful, all things considered) had important matches. Taborda couldn’t be in two places at once. Paying another coach would cost money after all.

So while it is nice to see the U.S. back to its dominant ways (playing much more attractive soccer in the process) and they certainly deserve much more compensation from its federation, it would be nice for other countries to at least give their women a chance to reach their full potential.

Someday, I guess. But not soon enough.

What else did we learn from Sunday’s game?:

1) Not as complete a performance from U.S.

Granted, if Christen Press and Lloyd finish chances in the first 10 minutes, it might have been a bit different and Colombia threatened so little that Alyssa Naeher touched the ball exactly twice in the first half, but there were some flaws evident. Press’ goal came off a Colombian mess in the back and the other two U.S. goals were on set pieces, so they weren’t exactly clinical.

Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, both outstanding Wednesday, were not as crisp in the second game of the week, with Pugh being put on the left and showing she does not as of yet have a strong left foot (she was much more dangerous when put at attacking mid for the final 20 minutes, for what it’s worth). Press did score, but also failed to capitalize on a couple of other chances and even Lloyd failed to tally (gasp).

There obviously should be little reason to panic in a game that means next to nothing going forward, but there are few chances left to fight for starting positions (or spots on the squad), so while Lloyd can be Sharpied into every Ellis lineup card, Press, Horan, and Pugh would have liked to be a little better in this one.

Sam Mewis had a chance to impress at the holding mid role with Morgan Brian still out, and Mewis actually looked natural in that spot, which is a change for the USWNT. I think that gives her an advantage over Allie Long for one of the final Olympic spots, but it probably could go either way.

2) Tobin Heath the right back

It was a worthy experiment from Ellis, who reportedly (ESPN) said she wanted to start the game like the U.S. was down 1-0. Heath obviously spent most of her time in the offensive end, which was fine against Colombia and allowed Press to play more central, but I’m not sure it is the right way to go against Germany, France, et al. To be fair, Ellis probably doesn’t, either.

Mewis was outstanding breaking up Colombia’s attempts to clear and keeping the ball in the final third for seemingly minutes on end, but again, it’s hard to project what that means against better competition.

3) Julie Johnston and set pieces

I pointed out at the World Cup that it seems like literally every U.S. set piece is aimed at Julie Johnston and almost all of them involve her going toward the front post. Yet it worked twice more again on Sunday (although the second one was pretty offside, but hey), and she was able to do it in front of her fiance (Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz). It should not go unnoticed that both of the set pieces were taken by Heath, which is another good reason for her to be on the field.

By the way, how dominant was the U.S. in this match? Johnston’s center back partner, Becky Sauerbrunn, was actually called offside early in the second half in the run of play.

Bonus) Olympic boycott?

While Lloyd took her case for fair compensation to the New York Times Sunday, Sauerbrunn made perhaps the most newsworthy statement of the weekend, telling ESPN that a full boycott of the Olympics would not be off the table if negotiations between it and the USSF dragged on through the summer.

Still there are myriad reasons that seems unlikely. It would not sit well with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and it would be a risky PR ploy that could backfire long-term. But thus far, the players have played the PR game extremely well, and having Sauerbrunn utter those words gives them an immediate seriousness.

If it were to happen, the USSF would likely attempt to field a team of “scab” players, and neither of us wants to imagine that scenario, so let’s just walk away for the time being and hope the USSF puts a fair deal forward soon, shall we?

  • Vladlagg

    I can’t imagine USSF fielding a team outside the MOU/CBA.

    • CED

      Yes USSF would, read about 2000 Olympics. People that think tat USSF are going to cave are mistaken. That however is the basis of the WNT slimy lawyer, hes’ wrong. His desperation is showing as he has filed this 100% bogus EEOC case, he knows will be thrown out b/c he know he’s about to lose the first case on the CBA. He has been instructing the WNT to go out on media and distort and lie ..look at the clownish article by Lloyd in NY Times the other day. It’s relying on utter ignorance of the public.

      • newsouth

        the fanboys and girls will show you absolutely no love for this post.

        • CED

          The things is I never care. Most of these people live in facts free zone. The WNT has been embarrassing themselves in the media if you actually know the full facts. The media have been kowtowed so much in the “equal pay” montra they refuse to ask obvious questions b/c they know it destroys the WNT statements. They let them go on tv/newspaper articles and spout nonsense of 4x pay, the nonsense by LLoyd and Broon yesterday and neglect context. Lloyd wa quoted I get paid 75K for wining wcup and men get 390K b/c I’m a women..NO! It’s b/c FIFA pays USSF 35M compared to 2M b/c MWcup revenue is 4.8B compared to about 100million for WWcup. It’s not gender, it’s called economics. Just like her statement men receiving 69K roster bonus to 15K WNT,,,,it’s b/c USSF gets 2.5M payment for MNT qualifying and 300K for women. So, yes, when USSF says the women wanting equal pay is irrational if you can do math. They receive much higher % of revenue as is….345K roster bonus of 300K payment, 1.725M win bonus of 2M. MNT receives 1.587M of 2.5M for Wcup quals and 9M of 35M for a Wcup win.

          • guest

            so it seems lloyd wants the usmnt’s men’s bonus but doesn’t want to give up the uswnt annual salaries that the usmnt don’t get. that doesn’t seem like equality. more like self-interest.

          • Lorehead

            You keep bringing up the World Cup prize money as if that were all the revenue the team generates and not a small portion.

          • CED

            Why can’t you refute the facts. The WNT campaign of lies on how they are paid 4x less is based on Wcup. So I throw it right in the supporters face like you to show that they receive a much higer % of the revenue than MNT.. Btw, go thru the entire revenue, I have, The WNT gets higher % with all included. Please prove they don’t. I have gone thru all the numbers. I keep waiting for you to show it’s not true you can’t. I’m waiting to see you numbers so I can laugh at you and show the numbers and shut you up once and for all. But, you will never do it to save the embarrassment. You would rather be thought stupid than it be proven definitively.

          • Lorehead

            Since you’re just repeating yourself, I invite anyone who cares to go look up the multiple times he’s dumped this copypasta on other threads, and my responses to him there. He has never addressed the facts about total revenue, just repeated his one factoid over and over and over again.

          • CED

            Please stop crying and prove it with facts and numbers. Please show as you claim over and over the WNT gets a smaller % of revenue, they don’t, I’m just waiting for you to show you numbers b/c I took the time and effort to run them. I’m just waiting for you to stick you head out so it can be chomped off. Like I said, you no better than to actually put out numbers b/c you want to save yourself the embarrassment. I just want to get rid of you once an for all. Please go ahead and show how you came up with the WNT get less % as you claim. I’m just waiting to prove you wrong and shut you up for good. Put out the numbers . You will not able to do your usual attempts of diversion, nonsense and back tracking..Waiting for the numbers. You and I know you will never show them b/c you came to it by your emotional belief and not actual facts.

          • Lorehead

            I’m not going to repeat my full calculations, which I posted several articles ago, for a troll who admits he didn’t read them the first time and just keeps spouting the same copypasta. Anyone who cares can see the proof that he’s wrong here. The USWNT’s revenues are currently twice as high as the men’s, and the men’s are only 20% higher over the current four-year cycle.

  • AnonyR

    Only Ellis would put a player, who was very effectively terrorizing Colombia’s defense, in the outside back position. I think Ellis is taking her idea of a versatile team a little too far.

    Also, I’m curious to know what Harris did to be put in Ellis’ doghouse.

    • Jersey Shore Rises

      Did you not listen to the intro, the opening of the game was to simulate the USWNT being down by a goal in RIO16 and pushing the outside backs up to score….?

      • mockmook

        So, why push Heath back?

        • Frozen Blue

          Yes!!! If we are down I want Heath up high and on the wing whipping in great crosses or sneaking in the back door and putting in a goal like she has been doing lately.

    • Hwah

      Agreed JSR, I actually applaud Ellis for running such simulations in a match setting.

    • guest

      Harris has been on the outs since mid-September because she’s the opposite of every other goalkeeper the USWNT have stuck with. If you have to stick a goalkeeper in last minute she’s pretty far removed from the relatively calm presence likes of Solo or Naeher. She’s too much of a loose cannon on the field, constantly trying to force things and not at all being the typical patient cerebral goalkeeper. Her time with the NT was always going to be short lived.

  • Jersey Shore Rises

    Awesome job again by the USWNT being the first team in USWNT history to be 11-0 and outscoring the competition 42-1 this early in a season, that is a record for goal difference along with being undefeated. Second we all know that Ellis is moving players around to simulate what will be needed in RIO16 if our team is behind and at the onset of the game the team was playing as if they were 0-1 down and trying to use the outside flanks to push the ball up…

    I for one look forward to RIO16 and will take bets against anyone (especially NYRick who lost so badly in the WC15) that this team will win it all…. Any Takers?

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  • Ethan

    Pugh is definitely not two-footed like Rapinoe and Heath, but she did whip in a very good aerial cross with her left foot in the last few minutes of the match. If she is actually capable of doing that consistently, I think it’s a conscious decision on her part to primarily deliver cutback crosses with her left foot instead of ones in the air. Honestly, I’d rather have Pugh deliver cutbacks with a high success rate than aerial crosses with a much lower success rate. Of course, it would be cool to see her provide a variety of crosses while also cutting inside to take shots and make through ball passes. That being said, I do agree that she wasn’t as good in this match as she has been, and I have definitely liked what I’ve seen from Pugh in the minutes she’s gotten at the #10 position.

    I am still very impressed by Johnston’s header and her work ethic in getting to the ball, but yeah, I’ve been giving her too much credit for her run.

    • Jersey Shore Rises

      “I am still very impressed by Johnston’s header and her work ethic in getting to the ball, but yeah, I’ve been giving her too much credit for her run.”

      Might want to give credit to Coach Galanis who has been training her along with Carli…

      http://www.universalsocceracademy.com/generalinformation/Staff/index_E.html

    • sudeep das

      I have said it before – Pugh is wasted in the flanks. She is dangerous along the central axis with her unique talent of taking on defenders.

    • Fred

      So Pugh is not the wunderkind originally thought? Has she peaked already? Anything’s possible, you know. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

    • JL

      I think Pugh needs to add more to her arsenal of attacking options in the next few years. She does the cutback very well, but if that’s the only thing she can do from that part of the field, opposing teams are going to pick up on it and will shut her down every time.

  • guest

    carli lloyd said they are not backing down anymore.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2631921-carli-lloyd-explains-reasoning-for-wage-discrimination-complaint-vs-us-soccer

    can the uswnt win an olympic medal without carli lloyd?

    • CED

      Backing down…They need to back of the cliff ,,they have a sweetheart freaking deal.

      LLoyd is freaking idiot, the reason a MNT player would receive 390K for a Wcup instead of 75K(WNT) is b/c USSF payout is 35M compared to 2M., The reason MNT get 69K to 15K WNT for Wcup roster is payout for quals is 2.5M to 300K…

  • Roe

    Heath played or mostly played as an OB against France and Germany. See her going against Thomis and dominating Maier.

    • AlexH

      Well its pretty easy to play outside back in a game when “back” means almost having to enter the defensive half of the field on say, 3, occasions. No doubt she could play the position because she is that good but yesterday wasn’t actually a fair test.

      • Roe

        I’m not sure sure you understood my comment. I was talking about the Shebelieves games. Not this one. Where she definitely did not only enter the defensive half on the field on 3 occasions.

        • AlexH

          You are right. I read poorly. Heath has turned into a beast and can pretty much dominate the flank no matter where she is positioned.

  • guest

    US U-20 team to Rio.

  • Schlitz24

    Pregnancies?

  • AlexH

    An interesting dynamic in the OG boycott ploy is that OG coverage is specifically designed to appeal to women. There is real danger to the Olympic Games if the US soccer team’s grievances spill over into other women’s sports. It hasn’t happened yet but in the age of the world wide web I can see a 1968 style upheaval this year at the Olympics.

    • CED

      Please let them boycott so they can suit for damages. The reason why their slimy lawyer filed the bogus EEOC bogus complaint is b/c he knows the first bogus filing on the CBA is going to be ruled against WNT. He foolishly thinks that always having on filing going on is going to make uSSF cave. That wa hus 1st mistake in December when he threatened a strike illegally…USSF does not cave. They have the facts on their side. The WNT are just not able to negotiate a deal b/c they are being irrational, there is now way in hell that’s happening b/c revenue doesn’t support it. The WNT case is weak factually thus their campaign of media distortions, half truths and outright lies to gain the support of an ignorant public If you’re case is actually strong you have no reason to lie and distort b/c that weakens you. If you already have a weak case than distortions and lies don;t hurt b/c you already are weak, the downside is little or none..that’s the WNT!

  • Lorehead
  • Lorehead

    I don’t think I completely grasp the connotations of the word in Colombia, but someone de jerarquía is someone with rank or importance in a hierarchy. So I think she was saying hers is a team with prestige or importance.

  • Chak Khan

    Let’s just say US WNT will skip the OG, then France, German, Canada and Brazil will have a much better chance at the gold medal. no? And which NWSL players would you use to assemble a pseudo WNT?