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Overall, the casual fan won’t notice much of a difference between the U.S. team that competed in the World Cup last summer and the one that will compete this summer in the Olympic Games.
All 18 members of the Olympic team were on the 21-woman roster for the World Cup and the team, after tinkering with a 4-2-3-1, will most likely line up in the same 4-4-2 they used in the World Cup.
However, there will be some small changes that will pay big dividends for the U.S.
Kelley O’Hara, who was a rarely used attacking midfielder/forward last year, has made a remarkable transition to left back and has played exceptionally well.
O’Hara has added even more speed to the backline and has proved to be a solid one-v.-one defender. Perhaps most importantly, O’Hara frequently pushes up on the attack and provides great left-footed service into the box, especially dangerous when the U.S. touts so many players skilled in the air.
Lauren Cheney, who played in last summer’s World Cup primarily as a forward and attacking midfielder, has played in the last few USWNT games as a center midfielder.
Cheney’s presence in the middle of the pitch has helped settle possession for the U.S., an area that was of concern in the World Cup last summer, particularly in their games against France and Japan.
The final subtle change made by the U.S. is a tactical one. Last summer, the U.S. conceded too much possession and spent too much time on its heels against quality teams.
However, in the last few games, the U.S. has employed a higher defensive line using its outside midfielders and forwards to immediately pressure the opponent’s backline and it has paid big dividends.
This was especially evident in the U.S. team's recent dominant victories over Brazil (3-0), China (4-1), Sweden (3-1) and Japan (4-1).