After a shorter than expected Olympic campaign the USWNT returned to action for a friendly on Sunday night against Netherlands in what might be the last soccer event at the Georgia Dome. The U.S. came away with a 3-1 victory.
Today's #USAvNED XI: Naeher; Engen, Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg; Horan, Long, Brian, Heath; Lloyd (c), Morgan. pic.twitter.com/b9sCPpWqQF— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) September 18, 2016
The U.S. started in flat 4-4-2 formation despite what the roster suggested with Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd leading the line.
The United States saw a much slower start against Netherlands than against Thailand and conceded within two minutes. The Dutch right winger, Shanice van de Sandem, got on the end of a through ball and placed the ball past Naeher’s right.
It wasn’t until the 7th minute until the United States had their first shot on target. Tobin Heath won the ball in midfield and found Carli Lloyd across the field on the left and was ultimately saved by Veenendaal. Not long after their first chance, in the 12th minute, Carli Lloyd found the back of the net but was correctly ruled offside.
The next U.S. chance didn't come until the 24th minute when Julie Johnston dribbled past two Dutch forwards, played to Lindsey Horan who switched the ball to Tobin Heath. Heath attempted to find Morgan in the box but Veenendaal beat her to the cross.
With ten minutes left in the first half, the United States equalized. Engen worked the ball out wide to Heath who took a touch toward the goal line then played a perfectly weighted ball toward the penalty spot where Lloyd latched on and found the roof of the net.
Throughout the first half, head coach, Jill Ellis, experimented with a few formations. In defense, the U.S. were in a traditional 4-4-2 which is atypical for the side. Lloyd was listed as a midfielder on the roster but played more attacking next to Morgan. This left Brian and Long to deal with three Dutch central midfielders as the Netherlands played a 4-3-3. In possession the team transition to a 3-5-2 through Klingenberg who joined the attack on the left side. The U.S. had trouble keeping longer spells of possession but began to improve as the half went on and found success on the right wing through Heath. Once Ali Krieger was subbed on in the 37th minute for Engen, the U.S. looked much more confident in possession and had less to deal with in their own defensive third.
The U.S. started much better in the second half when Heath found Krieger on an overlapping run. Krieger played the ball across to Heath who attempted to finish but hit post. Lloyd was there for the rebound but hit the post again. Two minutes later in the 50th minute, the U.S. went ahead. Christen Press, who was just subbed on played the ball across the box and met a Dutch defender who put it in the back of her own net.
In a flurry of chances in the opening minutes of the second half, the U.S. came close to extended their lead when Press found space in the box but her effort hit the post for the third time in ten minutes.
After dominating possession and chances for twenty minutes, the U.S. finally extended the lead in the 77th minute through Long who got on the end of Dunn’s headed ball back across goal after a service from Rapinoe.
Long’s goal was the last clear cut chance of the match and the USWNT finished 3-1 over Netherlands in what was a solid performance over ninety minutes.
At the post-match press conference Jill Ellis spoke about match the physicality and the intensity of the Dutch team. When asked about the U.S.’s fluid formation, she responded, “I think you have to be fluid. We defend out of a 4-4-2 because I like the structure. I like the tight lines. But in buildup you see most teams now will create a three back.... We created a three back by rotating Klingenberg and then it’s Tobin (Heath) up. We just do that naturally in our buildup because you have to be able to build.”
Ellis went on to talk about her team’s tactics, “I liked when we tried to commit more numbers centrally higher... For me its about maximizing what our players strengths are... I don’t think you can be rigid in today’s game in terms of how you play.”
The U.S. performed much better in the second half after some tactical changes at the break. Jill Ellis had her side playing more fluid than normal, using multiple formations over ninety minutes. Christen Press put in arguably the best performance of the night though she only played in the second half. Hopefully, Press can see an increase in playing time as Ellis begins to figure out her best players and formation heading toward the 2019 World Cup.