Coming off a 1-1 tie against Germany on Saturday night, the United States Women’s National Team took on Germany again in a rematch on Tuesday night, tying yet again, this time 2-2.
The two matches represented the best the women’s game has to offer as they pitted the No. 1-ranked Americans against the No. 2-ranked Germans.
Here are five thoughts from Tuesday’s match.
Becky Sauerbrunn was given the start at center back on Tuesday night, over the usual starter Rachel Buehler—and Sauerbrunn did not disappoint with her performance.
Despite the fact that the Germans solidly held possession for the first 25 minutes of the match, the American back line was surprisingly well organized and did not allow the Germans any dangerous chances.
Sauerbrunn was solid in possession and her use of Hope Solo for back passes could be made into a training video for young players on how to effectively use a goalkeeper to retain possession in the defensive third.
In the 57th minute, Sauerbrunn was moved to left back as Buehler entered the game for Kelley O’Hara.
Once Sauerbrunn was moved out wide, the U.S. defense began to struggle and the Germans controlled play for the last 25 minutes of the match, creating multiple dangerous chances before eventually equalizing in the 85th minute.
Sauerbrunn does not have the pace that normal center back starters Christie Rampone and Buehler have, but her coolness on the ball and smart positioning will give the new U.S. coach a tough decision.
It is near blasphemy to criticize Christie Rampone, the American captain who is undoubtedly one of the world’s best defenders over the past decade.
However, Tuesday night was yet another recent example of Rampone struggling as she was at fault for both of Germany’s goals.
In the 48th minute, Rampone fell down while in possession, gifting a breakaway that the Germans converted to equalize the game at one goal apiece.
Then, in the 85th minute, Rampone was beat on the dribble by German attacker Dzsenifer Marozsan, who went past Rampone and then fired the ball past Solo from just outside the penalty area.
Tuesday’s game follows a number of shaky performances by Rampone. Against Australia, she struggled with the speed of Australian forwards Sarah Walsh and Lisa De Vanna and was beat on a number of occasions.
It is hard to blame Rampone—formerly one of the world’s fastest players—for losing a step as she is 37 years old, but Father Time catches up with everyone at some point.
Over the past year, Kelley O’Hara has been a revelation for the USWNT as she nearly seamlessly made the transition from forward to left back.
Her timing was impeccable in the move as she instantly became a starter for the U.S. as American stalwart Ali Krieger went down in the CONCACAF Olympic Tournament qualifier with an ACL injury.
However, on Tuesday night, O’Hara was poor, losing possession repeatedly, many times even when she was not under pressure. O’Hara also struggled to keep the German attackers in front of her, repeatedly getting beat on the dribble, something very unusual for O’Hara.
To top it off, O’Hara rarely got forward into the attack as she usually does and contributed little to the offensive end.
Solo was, as usual, very strong in the net for the U.S., despite giving up two goals.
In the last 30 minutes, Solo had three big saves to keep the Americans in the game, including two big pushes. Her save on a redirected service in the 71st minute was world-class as she somehow managed to get her hand down to stop the ball from going in.
U.S. Soccer has done a tremendous job with the Fan Tribute Tour, which so far has had the USWNT play three different opponents in five different cities with two more games scheduled against Ireland in late November and early December.
The tour is a terrific public relations move by U.S. Soccer as it allows the fans to see their Olympic gold-medal heroes up close and personal.
And, with the next major competition three years away, who can blame U.S. Soccer and the team for wanting to take a little break to celebrate, right?
However, the one thing that these last few games against Australia and Germany proved definitively is that the rest of the world is steadily working to close the gap on the U.S.
Australia, normally a feisty but outmanned international side, gave the U.S. two surprisingly good games. And the Germans showed the U.S. through long stretches what good one-two touch combination play should look like. Both the Germans and Australians fielded young sides with the Germans rostering five members of their U-20 World Cup team.
The U.S., meanwhile, is in a serious state of transition. They are awaiting the selection of their new coach and word on a possible new professional league here in America.
With an aging U.S. roster—eight of the U.S.’ 18 players are on the wrong side of 30—and nations like France and Germany using their domestic leagues to churn out youth talent like crazy, the U.S. needs to start preparing for the next cycle.
There is a plethora of new American talent that needs to begin being evaluated, from Meghan Klingenberg, Christen Press, Whitney Engen, Kealia Ohai, Crystal Dunn, Julie Johnston, Lindsey Horan and the return of Krieger.
The sooner the U.S. gets started—the better. The rest of the world is not waiting.
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