The United States Women’s National Team defeated Japan 2-0 on Wednesday, the same score as Saturday. Here is some reaction to the game in which the U.S. looked very impressive:
– U.S. flanks looked good: Even more so than their successful outings on Saturday, Heather O’Reilly and Megan Rapinoe controlled the flanks on Wednesday. O’Reilly registered a goal and an assist but she gave Aya Sameshima trouble all day. O’Reilly is a player the U.S. needs to have confidence. When she feels good, the whole team runs better. After these past couple of performances, it is clear O’Reilly is in form. The typically serious Sky Blue FC midfielder has been all smiles of late. Rapinoe also did well on the flanks, finding Abby Wambach with her services. Those set pieces could use a little work, though.
– Lack of finishing could kill: This game should have been put away far earlier than it was. If the U.S. expects to win the World Cup this summer, it has to finish better. Alex Morgan failing to score on an empy net in the 62nd minute and Wambach bouncing a header over the crossbar from inside the six only highlighted a slew of blown chances for the U.S. on Wednesday.
– Sauerbrunn is stellar: Becky Sauerbrunn played all 180 minutes in the two matches against Japan and deservedly so. She was easily the best defender on the pitch in both games and her confidence was incredibly impressive. She made next to no mistakes in the two matches and made every tackle and close-out look easy. She has made a serious case to be starting. That, combined with the question mark at left back (Stephanie Cox and Amy LePeilbet played one half each on Wednesday), makes me think the best back line option could be: Krieger—Sauerbrunn—-Rampone—–Buehler. Buehler showed in last summer’s Sweden friendlies that she can get forward as an outside back, so that could just work. Rampone likes to push forward, too, so she could slide outside as well.
– If Farrelly is Tarpley’s replacement, play her: Sinead Farrelly joined the U.S. in training camp on Monday. The young Philadelphia midfielder is an interesting call-up from Pia Sundhage. Even if she goes to Germany, she likely wouldn’t see time on the pitch, but if you bring her in, play her. The time is now to test her out on the international level. Assuming she stays in camp, let’s hope that happens on June 5 against Mexico at Red Bull Arena.
– Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx distributed well: Carli Lloyd looked good in the second half, combining well with Alex Morgan up top and assisting on O’Reilly’s goal. As Japan grew tired, Lloyd managed to pick the visitors apart in the midfield. Not to be forgotten is her fellow central midfielder, Shannon Boxx, who had a much better game than her tired performance on Saturday. On Wednesday, Boxx looked refreshed and confident as she took on defenders and found teammates.
– Japan better find a way to finish and get out of group play: Yet again on Wednesday, Japan failed to produce much of anything up top. This is a team that has qualified for all five Women’s World Cups and gotten out of the group stage just once. If the team can’t find a way to create more chances on net (and actually finish those), it may fail to get out of the group again. The way England has been playing, the Three Lions will pick Japan apart if improvements aren’t made. Japan will be favored against Mexico and New Zealand, but those are trap games for Japan.
– Size a problem, but not in group play: Clearly Japan cannot handle height, although that should not be too much of a problem in group play (at least not to the extent that it was in the games against the U.S.).
– For Japan, consistency is critical: The key for Japan is consistency. Mana Iwabuchi served as a microcosm for that. The young star looked creative in the first half and went invisible in the second half, much like her entire team. Japan did very little in the second half.