Theivam: Six takeaways from England 1-0 USWNT

Kieran Theivam March 6, 2017 121
Steph Houghton, here against France, captained the first ever England side to beat the USWNT in the US (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Steph Houghton, here against France, captained the first ever England side to beat the USWNT in the US (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Here are six takeaways from England’s 1-0 win over the United States in Saturday’s SheBelieves Cup play.

Lucy Bronze is a better right-back than center back

This heading sounds negative, because Bronze is a solid defender in central positions as well. There are very few faults to her all-round game, but it’s at right back that she really excels. The Manchester City defender is an athlete as well as a smart defender. At right back you not only reap the benefits of her defensive qualities, but seeing her marauding up the right flank is a frightening prospect for any team, especially against a side still experimenting with its 3-5-2 formation, which is the case for the United States.

Bronze showed those qualities on Saturday, having an influence going forward and in standing up to the USA’s wide players – most notably entering into an entertaining contest with debutante Rose Lavelle (more on her further down).

{RELATED: Sampson hints beating USWNT was biggest England win ever}

It was also Bronze’s fierce strike off the crossbar that led to Ellen White scoring for the Lionesses, something we’ve seen previously, most notably against Norway at the 2015 World Cup when she scored from distance.

Bronze is developing into one of the best defenders in the world, and is arguably the best in the right-back position. To play her at center back is fine; you’ll get consistency and reliability alongside club mate Steph Houghton and one other, but what you lose is that threat going forward that is difficult to contain.

She knows the fullback position well – when to go and when to stay, and when to dive in and when to stand up. It’s her best position, so let’s see more of her there.

Rose Lavelle is good

For a 21-year-old making her debut, and out of position, you wouldn’t blame Rose Lavelle if she came across a bit overawed by her debut against England. But no, whether wide left or wide right, the Boston Breakers midfielder showed maturity beyond her years and was rightly named the U.S Player of the Match.

She showed good feet in wide areas and linked up well with the players in front of her. It wasn’t easy coming up against the excellent Lucy Bronze, but she did not look out of place and clearly has a bright future. The question that probably arises is with the opportunities being presented to even younger players, why has it taken so long for us to see Lavelle at senior level?

Regardless, the 21-year-old is sure to be one to watch in the NWSL this season with the Breakers and on this performance, will be a regular in Jill Ellis’ squads.

A back four is best for England

Towards the back end of last year and the start of this year, we saw England revert to a 3-5-2 formation, a switch from a back four that had been used for some time. The biggest challenge for Mark Sampson is that if he wants to persist with the 3-5-2, he needs to figure out how his players are going to master it, because none of the clubs his players represent play that formation. The England squad is made up of eight clubs – Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Birmingham, Notts County, Reading and Houston Dash – none of which traditionally play with a back three.

Therefore, this is a concept players, especially in defense and out wide, are going to have to get used to. They’re not playing that system week in week out for their clubs, so the only chance they have to learn the formation is on international duty. Is that relevant? I’m not a coach and this is purely an opinion piece, but I’d argue it’s not an easy transition.

We saw Saturday that England’s defenders – all of whom play for clubs that play a back four, deal well with the USA’s forward line and wide players. They knew their positions, knew their roles and kept a clean sheet against arguably the best attacking team in the world, on their home patch. The back four looks more settled.

Crystal Dunn is wasted at wing-back

Crystal Dunn has played both SheBelieves Cup matches at wing back and has been a bit lost in the shuffle (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Crystal Dunn has played both SheBelieves Cup matches at wing back and has been a bit lost in the shuffle (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

When Crystal Dunn was drafted in 2014, she was seen more as a fullback who would support the forward play in possession of the ball, and play further back without it. But following her MVP season in 2015 that saw her top the scoring charts in the NWSL, her game has moved on to another level that sees her occupy a pivotal role further up the field, either as a center forward or wide of a front three or midfield four or five.

Dunn is one of the most direct players in the U.S team, along with Malory Pugh, and putting her as wing-back means she has more defensive responsibilities that someone like an Ali Krieger or Kelley O’Hara could look after. We saw this work well with the former in Washington.

{LAULETTA: Three things we’ve learned about the USWNT…so far}

Dunn played as a central striker in a game I saw her for Chelsea against FC Rosengard in pre-season, and she was a menace. She did everything but score, but was arguably Chelsea’s best player and was easily their biggest threat.

Give her that freedom to attack and run at defenders, and what you have is one of the most dangerous players in world football. Dunn running at pace with the ball is frightening, but when on the rare occasion a play doesn’t work, she needs the safety blanket of players behind her.

The FAWSL is working

Every player who took to the field for England Saturday night plays in the FAWSL (Houston’s Rachel Daly was an unused sub).

In years past we have seen England struggle against the stronger nations, but since the launch of the Women’s Super League, the Lionesses have been able to compete with the likes of the U.S, France and Germany, even if results haven’t quite gone their way at times (Wednesday’s defeat to France being a prime example).

Questions from some have been raised as to why some of the world’s best players are moving to play in England, and while it would be naive to assume financial rewards do not play a part, it’s now time to accept that England itself has some of the best players competing on the world stage.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about Lucy Bronze, but add the likes of captain Steph Houghton, Jordan Nobbs and Karen Carney into the mix – all of whom play in the WSL – and you’re presented with a very strong core of players who have developed and improved by playing at home.

There’s still room for improvement, of course there is. But it’s no coincidence that England now has the strongest pool of players available to pick from in its history. A number of factors contribute, such as the creation of the facilities at St George’s Park and the investment clubs are making into their women’s programs, but the league is in a good place, and the players within it are benefiting.

3-5-2 is still a work in progress

A big talking point over the last few months for the U.S, and one that will rumble on after the opening games of SheBelieves.

On this occasion we saw Becky Sauerbrunn joined by Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger, and again, we saw a back line that was caused some problems, but for large parts, coped okay with England’s forward line.

{RAMPONE: One last hurrah…Christie Rampone says good bye to USWNT}

Johnston in particular was impressive with some last ditch challenges, but it could be said that she had to make those tackles because of original positioning. Regardless, this wasn’t a bad display by the U.S back line, and the scrutiny and attention should probably be focused on further up the field.

Lindsay Horan thrived in her position in the first half, but didn’t have the same impact in the second while Alex Morgan was starved of service, which made it difficult for her to influence the game, especially after a few weeks out with injury and illness.

Overall, this wasn’t a disaster and some of the reaction on social media to the defeat is way over the top. The U.S is building towards World Cup qualification next year, so expect more personnel changes, wobbles and defeats until then. But, be patient, this is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

  • JL

    Lucy Bronze needs to leave her scuba gear at home.

    • Steglitz49

      Que? De quoi est-il question? In short, expand on your comment.

      • Ethan

        Comment on diving. The British players as a whole were content with going down fairly easily. Doesn’t take away from their victory though.

        • Steglitz49

          Unlike the turnips who stand firm and take no s**t but dish it back out again, with interest.

        • #1Fan

          Most of the time they were fouls.

          • DNG

            Yeah, I have no problem with gamesmanship when the officials in WoSo let players get away the things they do.

          • #1Fan

            exactly this. Refs need to protect the players. often players go down becasue to stand up means getting kicked more.

          • Ethan

            I didn’t say they weren’t. That doesn’t mean the English players didn’t go down easily. It just gets a little annoying at times to see players go down at the hint of contact.

          • #1Fan

            i think they should. Go down easily that is.

        • htm222

          lol did you see Long when she came on?

  • Ethan

    Lavelle had a great game, but I wouldn’t say she was rightly named US Player of the Match. I would have given that to Mewis.

    • Arcie Tillydee

      I’d have been good with either one. The two US standouts,for sure.

  • MrTemecula

    Bronze best position is at right-back. She is an athletic, hard-nosed player and a pleasure to watch at that position. However, it is a shame she doesn’t get to unleash her thunderous shots more often at the offensive end. It is one of those plays I look forward to: LaBron dunking; Kershaw throw a curve; Marta take on defenders; etc. So, come on, Sampson, switch up the formation more often and send Bronze forward. Let her play the Carli position and let us watch her bomb away.

    • #1Fan

      will never happen. Roberto Carlos had a thunderous shot, he did not play CAM. She is in the right spot now. I doubt she could actually create her shot much in the CAM position.

      • Steglitz49

        Aya Miyama was the Roberto Carlos of soccer, as witness her freekicks over the years.

  • AlexH

    The six things I learned:
    1) Woso is still such a small deal in the USA that it is possible to record the game on Saturday and quite easily watch all the horror unfold on Sunday night as though it was live.
    2) This loss was completely on Jill Ellis. There is no excuse or such a comical display of set piece defending that led to the goal. The WNT spends all sorts of time in camp so the least they could do is get defending corners down pat.
    3) Julie Johnston is a dumpster fire and has been since the WC semis. She completely misjudged an aerial ball in the first half almost leading to an early England goal and then she took out two players during the clown show that led up to the English goal. Also she apparently has not learned in her time off how to quickly pass the ball around the back.
    4) The entire defense is actually a dumpster fire. I lost count of how many times Krieger passed the ball to the wrong team or out of bounds. The WNT propaganda machine loves to talk about their youth movement but it would be nice to see some on the back line because they pretty much are good for a gift a game to the opposition.
    5) Jill seems to have made Carli the new Abby. There is no need to play her every game especially in a meaningless year like this one. Rose Lavelle is an obviously gifted player so why not put her in a position that she plays (ie., Carlys’) rather than out on the wing. She did OK out there but as good as Rose is a 3-5-2 requires wingers that can flat out burn for 90 minutes and that isn’t Rose.
    6) Our veterans are nothing special. Pretty much it was the newbies that shone yesterday and our vets just screwed it up. Pugh, Dunn, Horan, Mewis, Levelle all played good enough to win. Morgan, Lloyd and the back 3 were an embarrassment. Experience is a great thing but young players have been playing excessive amounts of soccer since they were 8. No need for all of that “veteran leadership.” Time to have some more “difficult conversations” Jill.

    • #1Fan

      I have learned a few things that the audience primarily cares about winning, not matter the event or circumstances. makes it hard to experiment or blood new talent.

      Spectacular plays are often mistaken for good play. I dont rate JJ either, but i hear people telling me all about the last ditch tackles. as mentioned above, they are last ditch coz she is has recovery ability – but has to recover far too often from making errors. Sauerbrunn is the opposite. good positioning and decision making means she is rarely beat, but when she is its usually the end coz she cant recover as fast, so people say she is not fast enough !

      the gap between the veterans and the youth is 2 fold imo – its young legs and better training from a younger age. Higher IQs . 352 does not need burners. Alonso, Moses are not fast. I think it needs the ability to hold possession better and establish it HIGHER up the field ., thus making the other team go 60 yds to score. The US give the ball away too cheaply meaning they NEED speed to recover.

      as many have said, we need to fix the Midfield. Brian is lost in this team. A shadow of what she is capable of.

      • AlexH

        I think the win now crowd and the long term crowd could both be satisfied if Jill got her back line sorted and played the people that are actually stepping up (who happen to be the kids). I agree that a 352 does not need burners but does need players that are comfortable playing both ways (ridiculous speed is a plus though). Rose Lavelle isn’t that kind of player though. Had she started for Carli instead of Tobin that could have been special

        • #1Fan

          stepping up where?

          • AlexH

            Not literally stepping up. Rising to the occasion and not just in the back line. I hope Jill plays the gals against France that performed against Eng and Ger and leaves those that did not on the bench.

          • #1Fan

            i thought you were alluding to a bigger issue. I think she should be selecting who steps up in College and the NWSL.

      • Reality
        • #1Fan

          I guess he agrees with me or vice versa. Soccer is a simple game. Technique is – to me – making the right play in as few touches as possible. If you evaluate the players by that standard you may see the game a bit differently.

          Im not big on stepovers, drag backs , Maradonnas , ball rolls etc UNLESS they create time and space. This has become the definition of a a “technical” player for some.

          Dunn, Pugh could benefit from better techniques – they would play faster. The ball is often on the wrong foot or controlled in such a way that the first step is slowed.

          Lavelle, Horan , Brian are much more fundamentally sound but not as athletically gifted.

          passing to the right foot and the right side of a player is also undervalued. we dont have many good passers on this team. Lavelle hit a lovely chipped pass into space for Pugh i think that was excellent. Brian is a high quality passer , but not really getting involved on this team.

          we do have a bunch of dribblers tho πŸ™‚

          • Reality

            Positioning is an underestimated skill on both offense and defense. When it is done properly and consistently, it makes the play almost effortless in producing a good result. But most of the attention is given to the flashy play which, while praiseworthy, can be the result of a recovery from poor positioning. Sauerbrunn is not flashy nor does she seek attention. But she is very effective in what she does on the pitch.

          • DNG

            Brian hit a nice diagonal into the box early in the game. Unfortunately that ball was to Lloyd who could not control it and missed an opportunity to send the ball across goal

          • #1Fan

            Brian did not start ? Horan maybe ?

          • DNG

            Sorry, first match I think. I’ll have to check.

          • #1Fan

            everything with her looks so forced, so unnatural. I will give her this, she has worked her tail off to get to where she is. She is by no means blessed with a lot of natiural talent

          • Bruce

            ^^^ This is my new definition of a backhanded compliment.

          • #1Fan

            Im being serious. It s clear she has made herself what she is. I respect it,

          • DNG

            Germany match. Now that I looked at it again there wasn’t really a play inside. Still I expect better than a loose touch from Lloyd here.

            https://youtu.be/OVOvujcjOJ0?t=277

          • Bruce

            That ball was sent by Long.

          • DNG

            Long is in the box I think

          • Bruce

            You are correct.

          • guest123

            Moe Brian sent that service.

          • Bruce

            Yea. Was announced incorrectly and DNG helped clarify that a few hours back.

          • Ethan

            If you mean the lovely chipped pass from the right side of the box, that was to Dunn. I don’t remember any pass to Pugh that I would quite describe as lovely.

          • #1Fan

            nope. it was up the left .

          • Reality

            I think you might find this article interesting on decision making as an important skill…

            http://www.theawayendfooty.com/the-home-front/2016/3/1/skill-is-decision-making-not-scissors

          • #1Fan

            Yes . i think I posted that article last night in another discussion. I think form my posts ( if you are one who reads them) that you can see my view is very similar to his.

          • Usually only notice Sauerbrunn when she’s trying to clean up a mistake made by JJ or Long.

        • Ethan

          Well, Sauerbrunn did make an awful back pass to Harris in the first half that put her in a tricky position. I hope he at least noted that.

          • DNG

            In general I think his view on Sauerbrunn applies. Every player makes mistakes once in a while. Johnston’s are just a bit too frequent for me.

          • Ethan

            His overall view applies to 2015 Sauerbrunn. I don’t see it as really applicable to 2016 Sauerbrunn. Plus, you can also make notes on passing and distribution, and I’ve never found Sauerbrunn to be particularly great at successfully picking out passes that aren’t just to her partner center back.

          • #1Fan

            Im not sure of the system that would be asking her to do much more than that . find a checking CDM or switch play .

          • mockmook

            That seems to be the obvious answer to some of these distribution problems — a CDM needs to come back for the ball.

            If that option is covered, then it also allows the CB to dribble forward with the CDM filling the hole in the back line.

          • DNG

            I think Sauerbrunn had a rough start to the year but kind of righted the ship midway through during the NWSL season. Even with her mistakes I never once believe that JJ was at any point the better defender. As far as distribution goes every single defender could probably be criticized for poor distribution. I don’t think any of them are close to being great passers. I think his note of Sauerbrunn’s play still apply in 2016. Agree to disagree I guess.

          • Ethan

            Well, Sauerbrunn also shouldn’t have let White beat her to the rebound. So that’s at least two for this match. For most of her time on the US, Sauerbrunn definitely has made mistakes only once in a while. I don’t believe that has been the case over the last year. Agree to disagree.

          • DNG

            Here’s the video of the play. I’m not really sure what more you expected from Sauerbrunn on this play. She wasn’t covering her initially, they both run back immediately after bronze strikes the crossbar and in the resulting madness White gets to the ball first. The players who made the biggest on this play mistake are Brian and Johnston for failing to clear the ball and poor communication. Jodie Taylor should have also been called for interfering in the play while in an offside position.

            https://youtu.be/ecHkBwM6Rq8?t=2973

          • Ethan

            I didn’t say Sauerbrunn made the biggest mistake. Maybe I was too strong with “should”, but Sauerbrunn definitely could have gotten there before White. White anticipated the play better, and Sauerbrunn did hesitate in the commotion to clear the ball. It doesn’t look like she was exactly racing back at any point, but that’s probably just my perception. My overall point is that Halloran’s tweet doesn’t make considering Sauerbrunn’s play in 2016. He should have had plenty of notes on her.

          • DNG

            Sauerbrunn’s initial starting position relative to White. They marked the corner zonally.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5d9676870ce6acd2aecab86eac61e2158866573e600da8decafda145d8a53cea.png

          • I think Broon’s stellar positioning that usually lets her go perfectly unnoticed during matches is taking a hit with her A) being played at OB, and B) her rushing into the center to clean up mistakes by or JJ who have frequently either been beat by an attacking run or have been out of position.

            If Broon were in her usually position many of these shots the opposing teams got off would never have happened, IMO.

          • Reality

            Nobody’s perfect. I will say that Sauerbrunn is often taken for granted in the overall excellence of her play. Her savvy and experience have contributed very much to USWNT success.

          • Ethan

            You’re right; nobody’s perfect. However, she was also slow/very slow to the rebound and allowed White to beat her to the ball. Sauerbrunn has been phenomenal for the US over the last several years, but throughout 2016 and over the first two matches of this year (I did think Sauerbrunn was excellent defensively against Germany), you could have definitely made a fair number of notes critiquing her performances. So I’m being more critical of that tweet that was posted.

          • Reality

            At this point in time, I’m actually more concerned about the back line than the mid-field or or forward positions. (With the exception of course of the chronic dilemma of Lloyd) Sauerbrunn is still the best we’ve got back there and Ellis’s experimentation with a 3 back has created adjustment problems. Outside of Sullivan, we have not really brought up any outstanding talent. So while it may be true that Sauerbrunn has lost a bit, her current team mates in the back still don’t match her ability and experience. We certainly could use some fine young CB’s but Ellis seems determined to prove that we can get by with offensive firepower.

  • Amaechi Sydney Ezemba

    The midfield is poor now. Lavelle showed she has attacking prowess but not defensive as a wingback. She lost Parris multiple times and never dropped back to fill in spaces in the back if Krieger stepped in to ressure someone. Horan is wasted completely at holding mid. Her defensive qualities are almost pathetic. She was no real defensive help in the midfield. Mewis did fine, could be better but was good. Lloyd was useless for the 2nd game in a row. Pugh needs to make better decisions, you can’t keep dribbling into defenders. Make a pass.
    The mass of subs by Ellis was brainless. Only Lloyd and Alex should have been subbed out. Push Lavelle to cam, Heath to left wingback, and Horan up top as a target forward.
    Our back 3 had barely any help from the mid. Mid was almost stagnant at times. Forwards wasted every opportunity they had.
    The US best plays with a 4 back. Ellis is brainless. Dismantled a world class back 4, didn’t fix the mid, and our final third can’t produce.

    • #1Fan

      Dont agree with all of it, but a great post.

      • DNG

        Especially the back 4 part? The back 3 was a decent idea in theory and I did want to see how they played it. After seeing how Ellis chose her squad and organized the back three formation, I’m less impressed. I still think a back three could work just not as currently constructed.

        • #1Fan

          mostly the subs part. We need to see as many players as possible in somewhat competitive situations

          • DNG

            Well the subs didn’t bother me much other than I’d like to see every player get some minutes. If this is really about developing and seeing what we have why has Sonnett, Pinto, Mcdonald and O’hara not seen a single minute. Kassouf mentioned the possibility of O’hara being injured which would makes sense but the others. They can make the changes and combine the best of the two different lineups in the third game if they wish.

          • #1Fan

            I agree.

          • Amaechi Sydney Ezemba

            I get that but who Ellis picked didn’t make sense. No McDonald or Sonnett. Heck try Pinto. It was her usual players.

          • #1Fan

            then we agree. I thought you were saying she subbed too much.

        • Amaechi Sydney Ezemba

          I agree. The people Ellis chose for the 3 back and wingbacks, makes me just want to say go back to a 4 back. She can’t screw that up. But you’re right, we a better coach that better picks these players for the positions, a 3 back cab be great.

          • AlexH

            I am a big fan of continuing with a back 3 because we got the wingers for it and eventually Jill will stumble blindly on the right combination of people.

          • DNG

            The one thing that concerns me is that I’m not sure they have the CBs at the moment. Other than Short the US aren’t playing CBs that have the pace to play the two outside CBs. Those players need to be comfortable in 1v1’s out wide and athletic to recover. As good as Sauerbrunn is she isn’t that and Johnston isn’t that either and is a worse defender.

          • AlexH

            Yes but there are like a bazillion players in the US pool. Take Brunn, Long, Johnston and Krieger and pick ONE. Give the other spot to Short and find a third. Miss Right has to be out their somewhere.

          • DNG

            Of those I’d pick Krieger to be the RCB but but she’s getting up there in age and I would not rely on her to be healthy and as good as she is now in 2019. I’d like to see Sonnett get some time too. She has the athleticism but needs more time to develop. I don’t think Long Brunn, or Johnston could play on the outside of the CBs. I don’t really think Johnston should be starting at all.

          • #1Fan

            Alana Cook ? i noticed she is not on the u-23 tour. Im surprised.

          • #1Fan

            i have no idea why Sauerbrunn does not play in the middle.

          • Bruce

            Distribution?

          • #1Fan

            possibly , but heck JJ cannot pass a lick

          • Bruce

            But does the us have the CAM for a 3-4-1-2? If not, wing play will remain diminished.

            Maybe a switch to a 3-4-2-1 would work better.

          • #1Fan

            3412 is a simply an accommodation for one player. Because its the ONLY position she can play.

          • Bruce

            So you think that if Lloyd sits (for whatever reason), the US goes 2-1 up top?

          • #1Fan

            i would. I think that the players she has at LM/RM are more suited to inside forward positions than 2 way wing backs

          • DNG

            Pugh, Heath and Lavelle? I think those three are better suited to be the flank attackers in a the 3-4-3/3-4-2-1. Dunn I think would be better outside. Not sure that the three I mentioned would score enough goals though. Maybe Pugh in a few years.

          • #1Fan

            i see the 2 in 3421 as more attacking. I called them inside forwards to d differentiate from wingers – as in they are playing a bit narrower.

            Maybe we are agreeing, Im not sure. I dont want them isolated in 352 is what Im saying. Tracking attacking fullbacks or wingers.

          • AlexH

            I think that #1 is expressing his frustration that Jill apparently has determined that Carli is her gal come hell or high water. If the US wins and Carli plays great then it isn’t an issue but the WNT and Carli aren’t playing great and maybe Cari needs to prove herself just like everybody else.

          • Steglitz49

            It is difficult to drop the FIFA POTY — the POTY 2nd year running — not least in a year without significant matches. It is simpler to give her enough rope to hang herself.

            Once the new CBA is in the bag, JE will have more freedom to make changes. Those will come and commentators on the EQ will scream blue murder that their darling has been sent packing.

    • AlexH

      Good Post. I think you are spot on about Levelle not doing much to help out defensively on the wing. It is not her fault though. Jill should not try to put square pegs in round holes. I think the 3 back is fine though. Had it been Tobin and Dunn on the wings they would have gotten the support they needed and been just fine. Our backline problems aren’t a formation thing it is a personelle thing.

      • Bruce

        I don’t want to diminish a good first cap, but sure how it’s not Lavelle’s “fault” if Heath was given the same role and worked both ends. Sure, it was exciting to see her get up the pitch frequently, but she simply didn’t get the job done in the defensive half.

        To be clear, I’m not optimistic with how the 3-5-2 is working out, and think the source of the problem is in the CM, not the wings. That stated, the wings need to commit to the playing whole field when in that position.

        • AlexH

          It isn’t RLs fault by virtue of the fact that it really isn’t her position. If Jill put her in goal I wouldn’t fault RL for not stopping shots. I would have loved to se RL play the position that she played well enough to get her to the WNT.

      • #1Fan

        by the way, I think Heath is also a sq peg in a round hole. She is not much of a defender either. No idea why we have chosen a formation that puts a premium on skills we dont have so we are playing assets out of position to fit it.

        Oh wait, it does suit ONE player

    • CED

      Lavelle is a CM, pure #10, as usual under Ellis players are played out of position to cater to lloyd. Knowing Ellis, Lavelle will be stuck out wide and not play her optimal position b/c LLoyd’s butt would need to put on the bench.

      The old back 4 of Wcup is done, the band is not and shouldn’t be put back together. If you actually look at the games the distribution was poor by the back to the MF and the CM’s were also poor. Wcup there were so many low % long balls played by the back 4 to the attacking players.

      The US doesn’t have the players to play a back 3 correctly, but the thing is the level of competition in such that in an overwhelming % of their games, back 3 or 4 would not make a difference.

      Ellis has no clue or the guts to fix the MF last year, by benching people, so she tried the idea of pushing the Ob’s up up. It didn’t really work vs the bunkers they faced. The players didn’t know how to do it and the MF was still poor and the balls to the service to the FW’s was lacking. The MF is the source of the problem and Ellis seems to be doing everything to not address it head on. The team will not be fixed till Lloyd is benched andthey stop catering the entire system to her.

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    • nwslfan

      Great post

  • Borgata

    After watching the game I’m not sure what Lauletta was talking about with Dunn playing poorly. I think she was pretty close to Pugh in creating scoring opportunities despite having more defensive responsibilities. It’s not even worth complaining about Lloyd anymore but Dunn is another player that could make a huge impact at the 10.

    • #1Fan

      people have a Jones for Pugh. I though she was OK, but nothing special. Dunn was actually better in her 1 vs 1 take ons and service .

    • DNG

      I think the author of this article is Kieran. I don’t agree with him actually as it pertains to Dunn. He probably has a higher opinion of Dunn’s attacking game where as I think she might actually be best where she’s been playing.

      • #1Fan

        lauletta was praising Pugh in his article

        • DNG

          Pugh was pretty good early in the match turning the corner on her defender but grew increasingly more ineffective as the match wore on. I thought she was out of gas and had virtually no impact from the 70th minute onward. Her final balls were not that great either.

          • #1Fan

            so basically she showed you speed and not much else:) usually you get flamed for saying that.

          • Bruce

            Needed to turn the game in from the wing. Too much dribbling and forcing play into the 6 yard box.

          • AlexH

            Pugh may have had some shortcomings but she was better than Alex Morgan yesterday.

          • Bruce

            No argument.

    • Frozen Blue

      I agree this article more accurately represents my thoughts on Dunn, move her forward.

  • #1Fan

    its actually pretty incredible when you look at Saturdays game starting line up how many of the US team are not playing what i would consider their natural position

    • Gary Diver

      I thought this has been a major discussion issue on this site at least for 1 1/2 years. Have Dunn, Pugh, Horan, Brian, or Long been playing for Ellis in their national positions? And in Rose Lavelle’s first cap, she plays a position totally new to her.

      Ellis even has had difficulty find the right spot for Christen Press. Other than Morgan, Lloyd, her back line, and usually Tobin Heath, most of her other players have been treated as Swiss utility players. Didn’t Ellis stick Heath in the back line during the Swedish match?

      Is there a method to this madness?

      Ellis’ approach seems to be identify players with high soccer IQ and good technical skills and then just get as many of these players on the field at the same time. During WC15, she made her infamous comment that she doesn’t believe in formations and just wants the best players on the field at the same time and they will figure things out for themselves. I don’t think that is the way to create a team that plays as a unified unit with a common purpose that maximizes their potential as a team.

      • #1Fan

        i finally understand why its camp performances that count. Coz no one is playing the position they play in the NWSL or College so very hard to assess them.

        Half joking, but maybe some truth to it.

        • Bruce

          Camps must be like perpetual NFL combines.

      • Reality

        This “playing out of position” has been a major discussion issue on this site ever since Ellis assumed her position as head coach. The furor all started with Press being played out of position to accommodate a faltering Wambach. Then once Wambach retired. Ellis went to a lone forward formation with Morgan. After Lloyd’s golazo in WC2015, she became, in effect, the new forward behind Morgan. It is astounding to think that Press, a natural CF all her career and quite successful in that role, has never been able to play there on a consistent basis until very recently.

      • Steglitz49

        JE has been in charge of the USWNT in the two major intercontinental competitions. They won the WC for the first time in 16 years. In the other, the US had its worst OG ever; no medal.

        In both competitions the USWNT tied with Sweden but in the OG the pso went against them. Unfortunately, in the OG they also tied with Colombia.

        I have yet to see a proper detailed assessment of the Glorious 12th Bomb in Brasilia, let alone one of the Colombia game. As you noted about the U20/U19, the USSF is not quick to report on failures.

        Nevertheless, a dispassionate comparison of WC-11, OG-12, WC-15 and OG-16 might provide more insights.

        As for Reality’s rant about how ill a certain player has been treated, it adds nothing new.

        • How much does the gold at WC-15 overshadow other subpar performances? In fact, how much did the US actually luck into their medal at the WC due to Ellis being forced to change a line-up and her coming out looking brilliant for it.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken, that FIFA gave them a lot of help and the refs were lenient in WC-15.

            I guess, eventually your luck runs out.

            It did not help that the USWNT underestimated the Swedes in Brasilia. The swedes call it the Miracle on Grass and WC-15 was played on plastic.

      • ARED

        “just wants the best players on the field at the same time and they will figure things out for themselves”

        -This would be ok perhaps if Ellis would actually pick the best players, but I do not think she actually does this so it therefore drowns the whole premise. And ideally you have at least some structure, which actually gives the players more freedom b/c they don’t have to worry about roles they know are covered by others.

        For example, in the 3-5-2 the USA always suffers in the wide areas behind the wing backs but in front of the outside CBs. This happened in the build up to the England corners and goals I believe. The wingback (or outside mid) is correctly pushed up the field, leaving space behind. The opponents find 2v1 against the outside CB all the time, as the wingback is having to run to comeback. It does not help that the players are hesitating, but again, if they knew their roles and believed in the system, then they would play free and not hesitate. A 4 back may seem boring, but at least the outside backs are free and the CBs know when to step forward and when they must drop to cover behind.

        • mockmook

          Just not true.

          The USA has had recent games where the OBs in a 4-back were caught forward and the USA was punished. The most notorious example being against SWE.

          Regardless:

          1) If an attacker gets to the corner, that’s not the end of the world — the CB has to pressure that player and keep them outside (and letting the WB arrive).

          2) A DM can drop into the backline so that the CB has additional cover (and letting the WB arrive).

          3) If the outside CB is defending 1 v 2, then somebody really screwed up. Whoever is responsible for that 2nd attacker needs to follow her into the corner.

          • DNG

            CBs were at fault for the goal in my opinion not the OBs for getting caught up the field. On that play Sauerbrunn was slow to pressure and Johnston was slow to drop back and they ended up getting beat by one direct ball into space. Maybe klingenberg can help if she’s back but I expected the CBs to deal with that.

          • mockmook

            My point is that you can screw up with a back 4 as easily as with a back 3.

          • ARED

            That point I agree with fully. But I think that Ellis has made a lot of good players look very unsure of themselves, and a lot of good attackers and doing a lot of running to cover defensively. Especially since it appears quite possible it’s all just a complicated fraud to try to keep Lloyd in the team, and get Long out of the midfield.

          • mockmook

            I think JE is sincere in thinking that this would/could be a better formation.

            She could keep Lloyd in the mix in the 4-2-3-1 (or whatever you want to call it) that she used in the WWC final — so no reason to change the formation just to keep Lloyd on the field.

            And, I don’t know why she would want to take Long out of the midfield — but, if she did want to, just bench her. Or, make he one of the CBs in a 4-back if she was bent on having Long in the back.

            ———–

            An alternative explanation might be that JE wants to make the players uncomfortable. Wants them to view the game in a different way, have a different perspective on the game.

            Then she will go back to a “comfortable” formation with players who are a bit wiser and more flexible.

            However, that may be giving her too much credit.

          • ARED

            If there are 2-3 CM places, and Lloyd is always the CAM, that leaves 1-2. If Long is the holding mid, that leaves 0-1. But with talented players like Brian and Mewis already there, and others like Sullivan and Lavelle pressing to enter, I think Ellis was trying to find ways to fit them in b/c she knew that should almost has to as their talent is undeniable.

            It’s just my speculation, but Long was too good in 2016 to just drop while Lloyd was not. The obvious option is to start playing the new players in some of the matches instead of Lloyd or Long, and let the best options win. Instead we see Ellis does this crazy change of Long to CB, and perhaps it is so in time she can drop her with less controversy -either to the bench or completely -while the whole process is done on some level to preserve Lloyd from actually having to compete for her position, but finding a way to have the new players “get chances”.

          • ARED

            I know you like some of these formations, and again I am not blaming a formation for anything. But if you want to play a “new” or “complex” formation, your players have to 1) Fit it, and 2) Play freely in it. The USA does neither.

            What was “not true”? It is easy to see many many times where Short or Sauerbrunn is stuck in between against 2 attackers, while Long has to wonder how to place herself. Usually players like Heath/Pugh/Lavelle can get back just in time to defend it as you say, b/c in WoSo most players are slow, and frankly most teams are not good. When the opponent has attacked into the center, usually the there is a gap either side of Long which is easy to see, and the USA finds it hard to cover. My point is just that in the old formation, yes of course mistakes still happen, but at least some players fit their roles, and they all understood their roles and played freely without hesitation. Sweden made one brilliant pass with one great finish, and not a lot more danger. England threatened all match, while France obviously has toyed with this formation -and while France was quite good, I think we all understand the USA could be better than this.

            “Somebody really screwed up” -This is kind of true, b/c this formation makes the wingbacks (Heath/Dunn) responsible for so much space and any opponent on the entire wing and CMs must be able to drop all the way to their goaline as you say. These things must happen, but yet all of these players are pressured to create the attack for the team -esp. since the #10 cannot -so you see them overextended and fighting a very difficult battle. I just don’t understand what the point is. Change Lloyd/Long/etc, or change formation. Or both.

  • Stoshew

    What stuck out most to me was a point in the second half where the team took position in midfield and had forward momentum.. Carli Lloyd, with youngsters sprinting ahead ready for through balls, stopped, did a spin move, almost lost the ball, and effectively let the entire England team catch up so that they lost their attacking advantage. That moment, right there, seemed an indication of the biggest challenges this team faces where young players, yearning to go fast and strike hard, are burdened by a veteran who is far too analytical.

    • Reality

      How kind that you use the descriptor “analytical”.

    • AlexH

      I was annoyed that many times Lloyd did the “right” thing and passed (poorly)when she could have taken a shot. Carli’s biggest talent is making the selfish sublime and if we really need a distributor we should look elsewhere.

      • Reality

        “Carli’s biggest talent is making the selfish sublime…” A nice turn of phrase! Although I’m not sure it can be called sublime…perhaps a better word is “deserving”…although it is not.

      • CED

        Lloyd is an albatross to the team

        • Steglitz49

          Seeing that there are significant matches for the USWNT in this year, let the albatross sail. It might even soar.

          The real question is: how come that Carli did not score against Germany?

      • She also frequently (throughout the tournament) made poor, short, lateral or backward passes to players under pressure instead of making longer, forward passes to wide open attacking players.

        She often passed to Heath in traffic instead of to Press who was open, waving her arms, calling for the ball.

    • ARED

      Indeed, although I’m not sure “analytical” is the word I’d use… ; )