The United States Women’s National Team didn’t have much to prove in a pair of friendly matches played against Australia three months after the Olympics and 20 months before the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the players who want to be a part of the USWNT had a lot.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski took only two players over 30 on the trip to Australia and only six with more than 25 international appearances. She deployed young veterans Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle in center midfield to fuel the attack, but almost everyone on the field had little international experience in both games.
And the children were a success.
MORE: Fresh faces usher in a new era with a win in Australia
The USWNT tied Australia 1-1 early Tuesday morning, Australia’s goal coming on a lucky detour, after taking a 3-0 win three days earlier. Andonovski said he believed the Americans controlled the game in both games.
They created and ended more opportunities. They weren’t dominant, but they played in front of huge crowds on the road with mostly newcomers, that shouldn’t have been expected.
There was a lot to get out of the two games, most of them positive:
Prepare for a goalkeeper battle
World Cup hero Alyssa Naeher missed the final stretch of the NWSL season, and the Chicago Red Stars’ appearance in the championship game, due to a knee injury that occurred at the Olympics. . Maybe she wouldn’t have made this trip, anyway, given the emphasis on youth.
But Naeher learned last week, like many who follow the USWNT, that Casey Murphy, 25, could be a serious challenger to start in goal at the next World Cup.
DECOURCY: Why Spirit’s NWSL Title Was Most Notable in US Sports
North Carolina Courage’s Casey Murphy (below) was brilliant in both games, making eight saves to earn a shutout in his first start, then stopped on the tip of his finger in the 20th minute with a fiery volley from the promising Australian teenager. Kyra Cooney-Cross.
The shot came after Cooney-Cross punched and recovered a corner kick at the top of the box, and it should have been a goal. But Murphy jumped to his right, reached out and put enough of his glove on the ball that it drifted off the post and out of harm’s way.
The only shot that got past Murphy came in the 87th minute of the 1-1 tie, and it was on a deflected deflector from teammate Becky Sauerbrunn that sent the ball fired toward the far post. No goalkeeper from anywhere could have saved him.
Murphy led the NWSL in saves and recorded 11 shutouts. She has a future with the USWNT, and it could be the future at her position.
USWNT hatched another forward
With the retirement of Carli Lloyd in October, the USWNT suddenly ran thin as a center forward. There is enough skill in the attacking body for Andonovski to entertain using a false nine, but a 4-3-3 formation generally works best when the player in the middle can hold the ball, distribute it, and also be proficient in shooting opportunities. .
Ashley Hatch did all of that in her two games in Australia, scoring in the first minute of the team’s 3-0 win on Friday and then scoring with a quiet and subtle shot in the fourth minute on Tuesday.
MORE: How the USMNT Can Qualify for the Men’s World Cup
Hatch is a new player on this team, but not a young player. The 25-year-old enjoyed a great championship season with the Washington Spirit in 2021, winning the league’s Golden Boot award with 11 goals in 20 games.
His strike in Tuesday’s game was the work of someone who is fully confident in his ability. It was the product of a sequence that began with a fumble from Australia, driven by a soft pass from right winger Midge Purce, who tracked a ball close to the baseline and held it patiently until Hatch ran into the area. Moving quickly forward to get to the ball, Hatch could have allowed his momentum to result in a shot over the bar. Instead, he deftly rolled the ball toward the far post, out of the goalkeeper’s reach.
A new option in the rear left
When Emily Fox was barely out of her teens and still a student in North Carolina, she won her first two international matches in United States friendlies a little over six months before the 2019 World Cup. But as the preparation for that tournament she got serious, she was not ready to play a role. And then COVID-19 failed for most of 2020 and before you knew it, Fox had spent a full two years with a single cap.
Meanwhile, USWNT regular left-back Crystal Dunn has been itching to move higher and play the attacking role she routinely does with her club. But with no obvious left-back replacement and Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press available to play on the left wing, and with Dunn playing brilliantly, save for a relatively disappointing Olympics, there’s no point in moving her.
Just a pro during a season with Racing Louisville, Fox demonstrated against Australia the ability to cover ground, be flexible in attack and recover quickly to defend – all the strengths Dunn brought to the position. Fox owned veteran Australian winger Hayley Raso, allowing nothing dangerous to unfold from his side of the field. Going forward, Fox (below) displayed speed and aggression and wavered only because of a tendency to put too much emphasis on his passing.
Andonovski called Fox’s performance “incredible,” noting that his lack of experience did not affect his ability to affect the game. “I think it showed how much potential it has or how good it can be.”
Rapinoe will turn 38 at the next FIFA Women’s World Cup. If he still wants to play by then, it would be in a role similar to Lloyd in 2019 or Abby Wambach in 2015. The left wing position should be Dunn’s. And Fox was seen last week as the player who would take her position at the rear.
Sullivan shows the Olympic snub was a mistake
Andi Sullivan (above) was not only the centerpiece of Spirit’s NWSL Championship victory, but he proved in these two USWNT games, particularly in the first match, that Andonovski’s obvious mistake since taking over USWNT did not It was giving it a real chance to fill it up. instead of Julie Ertz in central Tokyo midfield.
Sullivan isn’t the player Ertz is, but given his injury problems, neither was Ertz in the spring and summer. Rather than give Sullivan a chance to fill that void while Ertz healed, Andonovski tried to force Lindsey Horan into a misfit defensive midfielder role. When the USWNT arrived in Tokyo, it rushed Ertz into the lineup with minimal preparation. And it didn’t work.
Sullivan had too many moments in the second game where he opted for safe passes and backwards when there were options ahead. But overall she was outstanding. Australia didn’t score until she was removed from Tuesday’s game by an extra defender.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.