TAMPA, Florida — As the United States women’s national team aims to form a strong defensive presence ahead of the 2019 World Cup, coach Jill Ellis is looking to find a reliable back line that can maintain possession, communicate, and deliver timely challenges when needed.
The anchor of that group has long been Becky Sauerbrunn, who brings poise, experience and a sense of calm. Her absence due to injury was felt in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Japan. And the U.S. was again lacking that steel against fourth-ranked England in a 2-2 draw on Saturday. Sauerbrunn’s entry into the England match in the 60th minute helped her team bounce back and earn that draw.
“At halftime, [Ellis] wanted us to be a little more patient, find good spaces, take advantage of the space when it was on,” Sauerbrunn said. “Recognizing if they were holding a higher or lower line, and really just trying to get back into a groove, to try and manipulate them, and get them to move. I think we did that pretty well. We got a few more chances and I think enough chances to win the game.”
Sauerbrunn, 33, has been dealing with a lingering knee issue that kept her out of the first match and limited her to 30 minutes on Saturday. The U.S.’ starting back line of Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson and Crystal Dunn looked over-matched and out of sorts at various points of each game. There appeared to be a lack of communication, confidence and proper positioning. Sauerbrunn’s absence could partly explain that.
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