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USWNT defense shuts out, scores two against Colombia

By Laken Litman
FOX Sports Soccer Writer

SANDY, Utah – And now it’s onto qualifying.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Women’s National Team beat Colombia 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, sweeping this two-game pleasant collection. Now the crew will to the CONCACAF W Championship match in Monterrey, Mexico, which doubles as qualifying for each the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics.

Both targets from Tuesday evening’s victory got here from USWNT proper backs. In the twenty second minute, Sofia Huerta compelled an personal aim when her cross — which was meant for Megan Rapinoe — was redirected into the again of the online by Colombia’s Manuela Vanegas.

The U.S. didn’t rating once more till after a late-game climate delay when Kelley O’Hara stepped up and hammered residence a rocket of a shot within the 77th minute. This was O’Hara’s third profession aim for the nationwide crew. Her first got here in the course of the 2015 World Cup semifinal match against Germany and her most up-to-date up till Tuesday was in a 2016 Olympic qualifying match.

Before O’Hara clinched the win, the U.S. let Colombia cling round. So a lot in order that early within the second half, that they had a number of attractiveness within the field, forcing goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to make vital saves.

While issues almost obtained somewhat too spicy for the U.S., coach Vlatko Andonovski discovered positives in his crew’s efficiency.

“The largest takeaways are that we have now an excellent crew and we discovered a method to rating targets in numerous methods,” Andonovski mentioned. “Even although at the moment I’d say it was not our greatest efficiency, we nonetheless managed to attain targets and get off the sector efficiently.”

Here are three takeaways from the match.

Questions about ending?

Heading into this sport, Andonovski mentioned his crew’s important focus can be attacking within the closing third, discovering area and executing. In Saturday’s 3-0 win over Colombia, the U.S. began gradual, however scored three targets within the second half. Tuesday, an identical theme unfolded and finally, two targets got here from two defenders, Huerta and O’Hara.

Given the quantity of expertise battling for taking part in time at ahead, does the U.S. have to be involved with their lack of ending throughout these friendlies?

“I like defender targets,” Alex Morgan joked after the sport. “More than my very own targets.”

Morgan, who leads the NWSL with 11 targets in 10 video games, had a number of possibilities, together with on the ultimate play within the first half when she tried to complete an exquisite cross by Huerta. She obtained her foot on the ball, but it surely hit the crossbar. 

“We had been simply lacking somewhat little bit of that closing go, somewhat little bit of that closing contact on aim,” Morgan mentioned. “It will come. 

“Otherwise, I felt like we broke them down at instances and we obtained damaged down at instances, however by no means did we not really feel answerable for the sport. So I believe that was an important factor and I believe we developed somewhat bit extra and needed to face various things as that they had 5 backs or a sweeper or actually got here to the ball with numerous numbers. Being in a position to remedy that on the sector with no water break or halftime is necessary for this group.”

With qualifying rapidly approaching, Andonovski gave Sophia Smith the evening off after she scored two targets and performed a full 90 minutes on Saturday. Morgan, Rapinoe and Margaret Purce began up prime whereas Mallory Pugh, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch got here off the bench.

Andonovski isn’t involved with the dearth of scoring from his forwards. At least not but. This is a more recent group that’s nonetheless gelling.

“In a sport like this when the forwards are surrounded with 4 or 5 gamers at a time, it’s arduous to seek out them,” Andonovski mentioned. “The undeniable fact that Alex got here into an excellent aim scoring alternative and performed a pleasant ball to Sophia [in the first game] for the primary aim, I imply that’s optimistic. Those are little issues that we’re taking a look at — particular person performances in sure conditions. 

“It’s arduous to judge [a player] in 90 minutes. We have to have a look at particular moments and the way we will replicate these moments within the subsequent sport.”

Handling physicality will solely assist in CONCACAF

Andonovski mentioned some of the precious issues from these two video games against Colombia was the physicality. This is the kind of model the U.S. will see from CONCACAF opponents, so scheduling Colombia proper earlier than the match was the most effective factor they may have accomplished. 

“It was an excellent studying alternative for us,” Andonovski mentioned.

After the sport, Andonovski spoke with a couple of gamers one-on-one to rapidly get their ideas on how issues performed out. He spent at the very least 10 minutes on the sector with Rapinoe, speaking X’s and O’s. Andonovski has mentioned a number of instances how necessary Rapinoe is for this crew and that he enjoys bouncing concepts off of her. 

“It appears all of us agree that that is the kind of sport we could face in CONCACAF,” Andonovski mentioned. “It was nice for us to see what we might have accomplished otherwise and what we might have accomplished that may have gotten us success even simpler. That’s why we picked this opponent, as a result of we felt prefer it was going to current an image of what we’re gonna see and we will’t be annoyed about it as a result of we knew what we had been going to face coming into it.

“Every sport is a studying alternative till we go to the match, after which within the match, it is must-win.”

Things obtained a bit chippy Tuesday on a couple of completely different events. In the primary half, Morgan was pushed down within the field however the referee didn’t name a foul, then on the finish of the match, a battle almost broke out between a couple of Colombia gamers and Ashley Hatch and Kristie Mewis.

“It was bodily and really, very tight,” Andonovski mentioned. “And it’s good for us to arrange for it.”

What’s subsequent?

The U.S. will head on to Monterrey on Wednesday and begin getting ready for the CONCACAF W Championship, which runs from July 4-18. Andonovski mentioned Tuesday he just about is aware of who the beginning XI might be in the course of the match.

“It’s not arduous to foretell who’s going to be on the sector,” he mentioned.

Here is every little thing that’s at stake:

This match serves as automated qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the 2024 Paris Olympics and the inaugural 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

The USWNT are the reigning champions and had been drawn into Group A. They face Haiti on Monday, July 4 at 7 p.m. ET, Jamaica on Thursday, July 6 at 7 p.m. ET and Mexico on Monday, July 11 at 10 p.m. ET. On the opposite aspect of the bracket in Group B are Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

The prime two finishers from every group after round-robin play will advance to the semifinals and earn World Cup berths. The third-place finisher in every group will play in a 10-team inter-confederation playoff match in February 2023 and the highest three finishers from there’ll qualify for the lately expanded 32-team World Cup.   

The winner of the Concacaf W Championship will even routinely qualify for the 2024 Olympics and 2024 Gold Cup, whereas the second and third place finishers will head to a playoff in September 2023 to earn their spots in each of these respective tournaments.

Laken Litman covers faculty soccer, faculty basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She beforehand lined faculty soccer, faculty basketball, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the Olympics at Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. Her first guide, written in partnership with Rizzoli and Sports Illustrated and titled “Strong Like a Woman,” was printed in spring 2022 marking the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX.

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