Free to Read: My 3 Thoughts on Spain-USWNT
The U.S. women’s national team lost to Spain 2-0 on Tuesday in Pamplona, Spain. It marks the first two-game losing streak for the USWNT since 2017. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• The U.S. midfield is a huge concern and needs a formation change now. You can say all you want about the missing U.S. players from this game, but if we’re being honest 2015-era Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis aren’t walking through that door ever again, and Vlatko Andonovski needs to change his midfield set-up ASAP. Specifically: He has to go to a double-pivot, at least against top competition, because a single D-mid in Andi Sullivan just isn’t going to work. No single D-mid can do what Ertz used to do, including Ertz herself. The U.S. needs to switch to a 4-2-3-1 and use the added stability to help create the conditions for Rose Lavelle to do what she does best as a No. 10 in a central role. Right now the U.S. midfield isn’t controlling possession and isn’t creating the chances for whomever is on the front line to score goals. Spain’s B-team midfield outplayed the U.S., which can’t rely on forcing turnovers as the only way to create scoring chances. It’s that simple. Time for a change now.
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• There is time for the U.S. to right the ship, but not much. Several players missing from these losses to Spain and England should be back in the picture as we get closer to the World Cup, including Catarina Macario, Mal Pugh, Alex Morgan, Tierna Davidson and perhaps Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett and Midge Purce. And it’s unlikely that future U.S. games will have the debilitating emotional context that surrounded the team over the past week in the wake of the Yates Report release. I’m glad the U.S. scheduled two away games in Europe against difficult opponents—although a Spain team missing 15 striking players was obviously far from full strength—in part because it shows us exactly how much the U.S. needs to improve in the coming months. Playing Germany twice in November will help as well. But the vibe around the USWNT right now feels a lot like it did during the disappointing Olympics run, and recognizing that is necessary if things are going to get better.
• This result won’t help the cause of progress with the Spanish team. Beating the World Cup champion 2-0 (after tying Sweden 1-1) without the 15 prominent players who refuse to play for Jorge Vilda will only give Vilda and the Spanish federation more ammo in their refusal to listen to the concerns of those players. Obviously, there’s a giant problem there, and the Spanish federation’s strategy of infantilizing the players and refusing to meet with them is of a piece with the unwillingness to engage serious matters that we saw from American soccer officials in the Yates Report. This has to stop. Spain got a good result today, but it’s remarkable to me how much turmoil several European World Cup contenders are in just a few months before the tournament, whether it’s Spain, France (which has somehow retained coach Corinne Diacre), the Netherlands (which just fired coach Mark Parsons) or Norway (which replaced its coach after the Euros). That may be a saving grace for this U.S. team: things aren’t quite as bad for the Americans as they are for several other contenders.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.