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USWNT vs. the low block: Why Portugal was a good pre-Olympic test

Jason Roberts / Envision Sports Media

A 1-0 victory over Portugal will be considered narrow by the high standards of the United States women’s national team, but it was a one-sided affair which will serve as an important test case for upcoming Olympic matches.

Portugal’s defensive approach in the low block is neither surprising nor new from a U.S. opponent. It’s a common tactic because it forces the Americans to problem-solve in ways which are not necessarily part of their traditional comfort zone. (To be fair and clear, a low block set up properly is difficult for any team to break down.) The cadence of the U.S.-Portugal game mirrored other major tournament preparation games for the U.S. (see: South Africa, 2019) and even many of matches against stronger sides like Sweden (see: 2016 Olympics quarterfinals). The opponent invites pressure, the U.S. probes, and eventually there is or is not a breakthrough. It’s a common pattern.

“The number of games we’ve won like this, it’s incredible,” U.S. forward Christen Press said.

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