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2023 Women's World Cup

‘We know it’s not good enough’: USWNT players, Andonvoski react to Portugal draw, narrowly advancing in World Cup

© Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. women’s national team caught their breath after the finale whistle against Portugal and breathed a sigh of relief. They advanced in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but certainly without the dominance that fans and viewers are used to in recent years.

After the match, players and coach Vlatko Andonovski had the same message when speaking to the media. It wasn’t a U.S. level result, Portugal gave them a fight but, at the end of the day, they’re moving on to the knockout round.

“We got through to the next round, but I wish we would have won,” Lynn Williams, who started up front, said. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t really matter. It’s getting through to the knockout stages. There’s more in us. Happy we have a clean sheet., but we need to be more clinical at the back of the net.”

Crystal Dunn, U.S. defender, said that it takes a “collective group” to figure out the on-the-field issues, specifically the lack of scoring.

“That’s not just a front line thing; that’s everyone on the ball making the best decision to set each other up,” Dunn said. “I think we were just a little bit off, whether it was people seeing something, balls were being played behind people, but I think that it’s something on us. We can own that, and we can move forward and get better with that.”

Kelley O’Hara, one of the veteran leaders on the team, was vocal in the huddle before and after the draw. She entered the match in second-half stoppage time for Dunn.

“I just told them, ‘Listen we did what we had to do.’ This game is done, group stage is done, we advanced,” O’Hara said. “It’s World Cup soccer. That’s the name of the game. Get out of your group and go from there. For us, this is in the rearview. The only thing we’re looking at and focusing on is the Round of 16, one game at a time. It’s knockout soccer, it’s time to go.” 

Alex Morgan, who has yet to score in this World Cup, said that the team’s decision making and organization needs to be better.

“I think it’s a little bit about decision making on the ball, it’s a little bit about holding the ball a little bit more, expecting the pressure and not letting them create turnovers as often as Portugal was able to do with us,” she explained. “It’s also being comfortable in our defensive shape for more than two or three seconds, knowing that when we win the ball that they can be vulnerable in the transition. So, I think that it was a couple tweaks and then it’s taking care of our chances in front of goal, set pieces in particular – corners, free kicks.”

Andonovski said it was tough to play against Portugal, but said there needs to be improvements made to help combat tough opponents.

“We’ve got to give credit to Portugal, too. That’s a good opponent,” he said. “It’s not like we walked out on the field and we played an opponent where we knew that we were going to score five goals. We knew it’s gonna be tough. We saw them playing against Netherlands and it wasn’t easy for Netherlands, either, but they scored the set-piece goal. We knew that it was gonna be very tough. We knew that it’s gonna be difficult. We knew that the spaces are gonna be – if they give us any space, they’re going to be open for a very short period of time because of how intense they shift and how fast they bring numbers around.

“Obviously, we had to be a little bit quicker, a little bit cleaner to execute or take advantage of the spaces that were given.”

Andonovski responds to Lloyd’s on-air criticism

Andonovski, after the match, said that the players wanted to win the match more than anything, especially after a 1-1 draw against the Dutch — who have topped Group E. He responded to criticism from former player Carli Lloyd who, on the Fox Sports broadcast, questioned the players’ mentality and ridiculed them for smiling and greeting fans afterwards.

“They put everything they could in preparation for this tournament and in every game that they go [into]. So, to question the mentality of this team, to question the willingness to win, to compete, I think it’s insane,” Andonovski stated. “I’ve never seen this team step on the field and not try hard and not compete. Everyone is entitled to [an] opinion and they can say whatever they want, but I just know how this team feels. It’s not like we played well by any means. We owned it; we know it’s not good enough. We’re not happy with our performance but we qualified for the next round. We’re moving on.”

O’Hara agreed with her coach, starting that she believes in the U.S. team.

“I know what this team is capable of, I trust our coaches and the game plans that they put together, and the scouting reports that they give us, and I’m gonna wait to see that and go from there,” she said.

Morgan also doubled down, saying she knows the U.S. can figure out how to return to a dominant form.

“I know this team and I know what we’re capable of,” Morgan said. “Just because it hasn’t clicked every moment on the field and we’re not putting the goals in the back of the net doesn’t mean these aren’t the right players for the job. The confidence is there and now we just have to prove it out on the field.”

Dunn, who was on the 2019 World Cup winning team, said the U.S. are fortunate to be playing in the Round of 16, where they will face off with the. Group G winner — right now, that’s Sweden.

“That’s where you have to dig deep. That’s what it takes to win a World Cup,” she said. “It’s not easy to do this and we’re taking it one game at a time. Right now, we are very fortunate to have another opportunity to put out a great performance and that’s what we look forward to.”

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