Thursday night was shaping up to be a frustrating night for the United States women’s national team, which entered the final 15 minutes of their friendly against Portugal in a 0-0 draw.
Despite dominating possession, the United States had created very few quality chances during most of the friendly in Houston. But Sam Mewis unexpectedly found himself unmarked within the six-yard box in a corner in the 76th minute and made no mistake with his header to give the USWNT a 1-0 victory.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski lined up his strongest possible starting lineup against the Portuguese, but his star-studded group didn’t cause as much trouble as expected against a little-known opponent.
Horan gets first chance to replace Ertz
For the USWNT, Julie Ertz is someone who cannot be completely replaced. Unfortunately for Andonovski, he may have to do everything he can to find a replacement.
Ertz suffered a right knee MCL sprain last month in the NWSL game, and his the status of the Olympics is up in the air. As the No. 6 of the USWNT, Ertz protects the baseline, wins balls with her tenacious work rhythm and kicks attacks. There is no other player in the pool who can do what she does.
Andonovski on Thursday gave an idea of what a USWNT setup would look like without Ertz, and the experiment didn’t go wrong. Lindsey Horan, who normally plays as a midfielder from field to field, returned to the holding position, where he performed an admirable impression of Ertz in a role he played for the USA in the past.
“I told him he was a monster on the field,” Andonovski said after the game, “aerial challenges, intercepting balls and controlling the game from all areas of the field.”
Horan’s comfort on the ball is unmatched, but he also showed some of the winning guts that Ertz brings so often. It will be interesting to see if Andonovski opts for a more natural No. 6 like Andi Sullivan in the team’s next two games against Jamaica and Nigeria, or gives another player who normally plays elsewhere, like Emily Sonnett or Tierna Davidson, a chance at play. the position.
USWNT fights to bring down Portugal
The USWNT is more than used to dividing teams that relax, and usually the team has enough quality to do so.
However, against a disciplined and determined defensive line from Portugal on Thursday, Andonovski’s team struggled.
Although they had most of the possession in the first half, the USA failed to create golden opportunities, with a Christen Press volley that elicited a kick save from the best of the group Ines Pereira.
Things improved in the second half in terms of opportunity creation, but Alex Morgan was guilty of missing two excellent opportunities before Carli Lloyd’s late goal was recalled after an offside flag was raised.
Although they may have been frustrated, the USA also put in a useful drill ahead of an Olympic tournament that will see many opponents set up as Portugal did.
“That was my post-match group speech,” Andonovski said, “that this is what we are going to see multiple times at the Olympics.”
Press added: “I think it is very valuable. We faced all the different types of opponents in preparation for these Olympics and I think the style of play that we faced tonight is something that we absolutely could see.”
USWNT starts with the strongest possible squad
Andonovski will have some tough decisions to make after his team’s three friendlies as he will name his 18-player Olympic roster at the end of the team’s camp.
However, when it comes to his final picks, the coach won’t have much to talk about in Thursday’s game movie.
Andonovski opted for arguably his strongest lineup against Portugal, and did not introduce any substitutes until the 73rd minute.
The coach could have been trying to replicate the Olympic group stage, where he is likely to start with his strongest team in his team’s first match against Sweden before rotating his team in subsequent games against New Zealand and Australia.
Expect a lot of bubble players to get their chance on Sunday against Jamaica and Wednesday against Nigeria.
“We will see rotation,” Andonovski said. “We have to be careful from a management point of view, but there are also some things we want to see in the next two games that will be another reason why we will rotate players.”