Connect with us


Which USWNT forward combination will thrive at the 2023 World Cup?

Vlatko Andonovski seemed to have a preferred three heading into the send-off match, but what followed suggested a different combination could be optimal — and the data says so, too

Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer

Momentum is a funny thing when it comes to national team starting lineups. A good performance can put the wind at your back; a bad one can blow it in your face.

We try to read the tea leaves from a head coach’s public statements, and what kernels members of the media are able to glean on background, in order to guess which way the gust has shifted. In the end, we might still be left feeling surprised by which cheek it stings. 

Such an experience unfolded in San Jose, California, on Sunday, when United States women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski posted the starting XI for the team’s World Cup send-off game against Wales. Lynn Williams seemed like the obvious choice to start on the left wing, with Sophia Smith setting up on the right next to Alex Morgan.

Instead, Alyssa Thompson took to the left flank at kickoff. Broadcasters Luke Wileman and Julie Foudy repeatedly noted that this was the strongest available lineup, which suggests that their background conversations with Andonovski confirm this trio to be the forward line come July 21 in New Zealand. 

Questions about their best deployment still remain. The U.S. attack only came to life once Williams Trinity Rodman entered in the second half, with Rodman bagging a brace and Williams playmaking to sterling effect. What might Andonovski think about his options, now that he’s seen his final squad in action? Let’s go through each position, how the potential players have performed in the National Women’s Soccer League regular season this year, and weigh their pluses and minuses. 

Left wing

*Stats thru June 25.
**npxG and xAssists averaged from three respective expected goals and expected assists models from American Soccer Analysis, FBRef, and Opta Analyst.
***Shooting value averaged from two post-shot expected goals models from American Soccer Analysis.
****Skills and Goals Added values provided by American Soccer Analysis.

This was the Mallory Swanson-sized question mark that Andonovski had about the forward positions entering Sunday’s game, following Swanson’s torn patella tendon suffered in an April friendly against Ireland.

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long
Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.

Your account


More in Analysis