Turns out, the American soccer coach Jill Ellis was exactly right. It did not matter what number was assigned to her formation; what counted was the way the players created their chances.
For the first time in this Women’s World Cup – their fifth match – the Americans showed imagination and teamwork.
Amy Rodriguez dribbled. Kelly O’Hara ran. Tobin Heath lashed left-footed free kicks. Morgan Brian distributed the ball. Where have these people been all our lives?
The result was a 1-0 victory over China Friday night in Ottawa, leading to a semifinal with Germany on Tuesday in Montreal.
I have to add that the energy and cohesion was not merely because Ellis had the wisdom to bench Abby Wambach, thereby allowing Carli Lloyd and everybody else to exploit the spaces and attack on their own.
As Laura Vecsey wrote on foxsports.com:
"’Freedom,’ is what Carli Lloyd said was the difference, though why that freedom to just play has been so hard to drum up remains a curious problem.”
That “freedom” was partially mandated by the absence of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, both ineligible because of two previous yellow cards.
Rapinoe is probably my favorite player on this team – independent and athletic, fun to watch – although those young defenders have been a revelation. Still, in the stolid American attack Rapinoe had been taking on too much responsibility. With Rapinoe and Holiday sitting in the stands, their teammates busted out of that 4-4-2 stereotype.
They were not preoccupied with putting the ball near Wambach’s historic dome and they did not watch Rapinoe trying to do it by herself. They found space and they called upon their own talents. Freedom.
I’m not sure whom I would replace to get Rapinoe back in the starting lineup, but her gall and skill will be needed against Germany. The victory over China was a template for this U.S. team. The younger Americans have been let loose
6/27/2015 02:44:43 am
Not the China of once upon a time. Not the USA of our fantasies(or theirs) either. China is a young team. The USA an older one in need of some revision and some freedom to express themselves. It went as it was going to go. A game still marked by a too many giveaways. Rapinoe is fundamental, but has been bearing too much of the load. Johnston is solid and doesn't give the ball away easily. But Wambach, who was strangely allowed by Ellis to train for a World Cup by playing pickup games and rounds of golf, is not a 90-minute player. When I see her play now I can't help wondering if the marketing types at US Soccer, and their paymasters in Beaverton, haven't had a little too much influence over team selection. In any case, Germany is not China and the USA will have a much tougher time in their next game. I wonder if Jill Ellis has ever thought about taking a page out of the Klinsmann playbook and looking for the soccer-playing daughters of American servicemen born to German mothers?
6/27/2015 06:56:04 am
I watched parts of Friday's matches (hadn't seen any WWC before then), and it was clear France should have beaten Germany: far more creative but couldn't take their chances; and USA should have been 3-0 up at HT (they need to do more shooting practice). So I see USA beating Germany quite handily....
6/27/2015 07:56:53 am
John McD and John W, did you guys ever meet or was McD at soccer and W at the Tour?
6/28/2015 01:23:26 pm
I enjoyed the match immensely, although I foolishly cut away for the Queens Governor's press conference regarding the prison break, and missed Lloyd's goal in real time. The little I know about the sport, learned from reading you, led me to the conclusion that the passing by the women was first rate, at a much higher level than that of the men's team in Brazil in a relative comparison. It was fun to watch and fun to win. You didn't mention Alex Morgan who I thought was outstanding and just not in her play on the field, LOL
6/29/2015 12:51:20 am
Hansen, thanks for the nice words. Yes, Morgan has been playing herself into 90-minute condition after injury, and this was her best match -- partially for the same reasons as the others'.
6/29/2015 04:25:04 am
Yes, definitely in women's tennis where you can at least see the ball, as opposed to the men's game which is played at a speed that my aging eyes have difficulty following. Same for WNBA where the passing is first rate compared to the one on one gymnastics of the NBA. Your point about the relative smaller size of women in soccer being partly responsible for the passing is interesting, something I had not thought of before.
6/29/2015 03:22:16 pm
Prior to the US-China game, I did not expect the USNWT to advance beyond the quarter finals.
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.