USWNT Wins SheBelieves Cup With Unblemished Record but not a Perfect Performance
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
by Bart Keeler
Looking at the match reports, you could say the United States women’s national team was perfect. The USMNT claimed its fourth SheBelieves Cup title, won all three matches it played and conceded zero goals. Though an unblemished record would indicate a team firing on all cylinders, head coach Vlatko Andonovski should leave Orlando, Florida, with some concerns to ponder.
Overall, the U.S. was wasteful with its chances. And there were plenty of them throughout the tournament. In total, they scored nine goals but compared to the 73 total shots generated, the players will feel they did not
USA 1-0 Canada
In its opening match, the USWNT downed archrival Canada 1-0 on a late Rose Lavelle goal. The team struggled to build consistent passing progressions through the Canadian press and often relied on individual talent over team play. The team manufactured 29 shots but was unable to score from open play, as the goal came from a set-piece.
Canada forced the U.S. to play from the wings, which allowed central midfielder Lindsey Horan a bit more space to operate. However, Canada capably dealt with most of the crosses put in from the flanks. Even when the cross did find a USWNTer, their finishing touch wasn’t to be found.
USA 2-0 Brazil
The team responded well to the frustrations in the Canada match with a 2-0 win over Brazil, thanks to goals from Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe. Early on, the USWNT had an eye for goal. After a couple of saves from Bárbara, Press broke the seal in the 11th minute with a beautifully curled ball from her left side to the bottom right corner. Unfortunately, it would take 77 minutes for the U.S. to score again.
The gap in scoring wasn’t for lack of trying. The four-time World Champs created a lot of chances, 17 shots in total, again using Horan in a wide position to find space for the clever passer. The issue was that Brazil was able to create chances by waiting for American mistakes. Luckily, these miscues in the attacking half did not hurt the USWNT. They were able to secure the victory in the 88th minute as Horan, again in a wide position, delivered a cross to a streaking Megan Rapinoe right in front of the goal.
USA 6-0 Argentina
After two frustrating offensive matches, the USWNT made sure they didn’t leave the Orlando bubble with goals in the bank. A rotated backline faced no pressure from Argentina but an experienced front six feasted on an Argentina defense that was quickly confused by runs from the wings and midfield.
Rapinoe scored twice thanks to assists from Carli Lloyd, who then scored a goal of her own in the first half. A Kristie Mewis goal pushed the scoreline to 4-0 at the half with no question that the USWNT were vibing. Alex Morgan scored her first USWNT goal as a mom and Christen Press found a reward for a solid tournament to close out the match 6-0.
The Positives Overall, the U.S. was able to adapt to different types of pressure from Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Though the goals weren’t there in the first two matches, they did find 46 shots, 14 on goal. Even when the middle of the field was unavailable, Andonovski’s system allowed his talented players to find better spots on the field from in which to play.
Lindsey Horan especially thrived in some positional freedom, able to drift wide left and right to combine with wingers and overlapping fullbacks. In the Brazil game, especially, the front three of Press, Morgan, and Lynn Williams were able to work their individual magic to create chances for each other in the box.
Even if there were some struggles, the USWNT was able to adjust from match to match. From Canada to Brazil, it was clear Andonovski altered his gameplan to account for more wing play, allowing Press and Williams to combine with midfielders drifting wide to pump in crosses. Against Argentina, in-game changes called for wingers to run behind the defense for through-balls and chips over the top.
Obviously, the Canada match was the most concerning of the tournament. Les Rouges easily disrupted the U.S. passing patterns and forced players to be isolated. This was due to Canada pressing the USWNT. That said, the Yanks still created opportunities. But Andonovski can be happy with how easily his team was put off their plan of attack.
Right now, the striker position is a bit of a question for the USWNT. Morgan is likely the starter but is still coming back into the team after the birth of her child. The 38-year-old Lloyd started twice and Morgan played the minutes she did not. Despite having Williams as a legitimate option at striker, he chose to not play her there. He has used Catarina Macario in that position before but opted to only play her in midfield this tournament. Can Lloyd be on an 18-player roster for the Olympics this summer over younger, more versatile players? Andonovski wasted an opportunity during this tournament to find a reliable second option behind Morgan.
The USWNT will take the SheBelieves Cup title against two teams they could face in the Summer Olympics in August. Overall, the team was a bit wasteful but was able to outclass each opponent. The USWNT can use the rest of the year to clean up the sloppy finishing and perfect the patterns of play that proved lethal.
(photo credit: @USWNT)