USWNT vs Portugal: Three takeaways as USA stumbles but advances to Women’s World Cup knockouts

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The US women’s national team advanced to the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, but the team’s 0-0 draw with Portugal leaves plenty of room for improvement.

The two-time reigning champions finished second in group play for just the second time ever at the World Cup as offensive woes continued to plague the team. The USWNT once again struggled to register meaningful chances and were unable to find the back of the net against Portugal, whose midfield play challenged the Americans’ game plan throughout the game.

The result leaves head coach Vlatko Andonovski with many questions to answer after an unimpressive group stage campaign in which the team won just once and conceded just four goals, and perhaps a handful of -big decisions to be made as the Round of 16 approaches.

1. Few improvements in attack

The USWNT is experiencing an incredibly rough field up top, and they played another game where they created plenty of chances but couldn’t score as often as they should have. This time, however, the Americans went scoreless for the first time in 13 games.

Scoring problems continued despite Vlatko Andonovski making two changes to the line-up, giving Rose Lavelle and Lynn Williams their first World Cup starts. The results were mixed – Lavelle created three chances but only posted a pass accuracy of 57%, while Williams went forward often and put four of her six shots in the frame. Williams’ four shots also accounted for most of the USWNT’s six total shots on target, making her one of the bright spots in a grueling match.

The USWNT posted 17 total shots, which is similar to the game against the Netherlands when they took 18 shots and had four on goal. Despite this new inability to score, captain Lindsey Horan is taking the high road and believes the series will be broken sooner rather than later.

“We had our chances in front of the goal and even two yards out and we have to finish them, and we will,” she said said Fox Sports following the game. “We’re going to move on, we’re through to the next round, and that’s going to come.

2. Midfield conflict

The USWNT’s attack was still inconsistent against Portugal, but the midfield was perhaps the team’s biggest area of ​​concern. The trio of Lavelle, Horan, and Andi Sullivan never settled into a rhythm and struggled to provide a foundation from which to build a consistent, sustained attack. The team was forced to pass through midfield at times to advance the field due to Portugal’s strong performance in midfield.

Megan Rapinoe, who is in the second half, said that the team lacked patience in general, but the comments were true regarding the midfield display.

“I think in the first half, there was a lot of space for us to play in and just a little rush,” she said. said Fox Sports. “I think we could have changed the level of attack a bit more. I thought we were finding the width but I think we needed to open them up a bit more and pull them out.”

Andonovski will be forced to change the team as Lavelle will miss the last 16 by picking up yellow cards. It could open the door for Savannah DeMelo to reclaim her starting spot, and Kristie Mewis could also be an option. There could be more changes to the right course in midfield from both this game and the last one against Holland, especially in the defensive midfield position that Sullivan occupies. play

3. The plan to beat the USWNT?

The number of shots wasn’t the only thing that stood out in the USWNT’s performance against the Netherlands and Portugal. Both teams managed to thwart the reigning champions by dominating possession and in particular, winning the midfield battle. The reigning champions looked the worst in both games when they couldn’t get past the opposition midfield at their best, which was by design for Portugal.

“We know the US players are amazing,” said Portugal head coach Francisco Neto, for Fox Sports. “We know they have very good dynamics, but they suffer when they don’t have the ball.

The performances against both the Netherlands and Portugal provide a clear blueprint for all future opponents to tour the USWNT, but that doesn’t guarantee a win. Neither the Netherlands nor Portugal beat the Americans, nor did they register a ton of chances along the way – the Netherlands had five shots and just one on target, while Portugal put up six scenes and none were in the frame. The USWNT was never out of the game either, and took nearly 20 shots in both games.

The USWNT’s ability to still execute some of their plans means that upcoming opponents will have to do more than the Netherlands and Portugal did to come out on top. With the competition stronger than ever, a more clinical team in the right form may be able to put all the pieces together and build a statement victory over the reigning champions.

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