Written by Michael Saunders
The United States took on Brazil yesterday for the second match of the 2021 “SheBelieves Cup”, dispatching the “Canarinhas” 2-0 in a game which coach reduced his anxiety over the team’s outlook going forward.
Vlatko changed his previous starting XI from the match against rival Canada, with the key replacement being Lavelle in the midfield in place of Macario, to which the USA responded positively by displaying a more coordinated fluid game than its match against its northern neighbors. Pia Sundhage’s surprised a few observers as the Brazilian coach opted for a strategic attack formation choosing a 4-4-2 whereby she would be able to leverage the offensive threats of Marta & Debinha in the midfield. The result being that both sides had several opportunities to score. Yet, the extra space provided the Americans the freedom in the midfield which they quickly turned into the first goal in the 11th minute via a well-executed sequence started by Julie Ertz to Lindsey Horan who quickly led Christen Press on the left side who ran onto the ball, soon followed by a quick cutback just outside the box and fired into the net. In the post-game interview, Press referred to it as her “signature” shot which caused a few reporters to smile fully realizing they have seen this before when she plays in a wide position. Indeed, Facebook & Twitter lit up with comments from England’s Man. Utd. supporters who called for their coach, Casey Stoney, to start Press on the wing versus her starting as a striker. Both teams had several opportunities to score, with best chance for Brazil coming from Ludmilla when her shot went wide in the first half, and a sequence where Dunn recognized the scoring situation developing then quickly running to the edge of the six-yard box, slide tackling and blocking the open shot. Debinha also shot wide in the second half. During his post-game interview Vlatko emphasized that many players were realistically returning from their usual off offseason which in essence was extended due to the pandemic. In the second half, Vlatko recognizing the risk situation with the 4-4-2 of Brazil, pulled Ertz back closer to the CBs to close down the half spaces. He also directed his wing backs not to attack in tandem as they did often in the first half thus reducing the counter- attack which Brazil employed so well earlier. The second half was a bit scrappy. Rapinoe who had come on for Press scored in the 88th minute securing the win for the USA. There are a number of takeaways from this match that are worth noting:
1) The three players of the match were Horan, Dunn & Press. Horan’s awareness and ball handling are a pleasure to watch. Indeed, should she continue performing at this level she would have to be considered Player of the Year in the USA. 2) The finishing is still an issue. Morgan, Williams, Lloyd, even Rapinoe need to do better. A team cannot squander as many opportunities as the USA have had without consequences, especially in elimination matches. Another area of improvement cited by some pundits are the poor crosses made by the team. In my opinion, it works both ways. Too often players did not make themselves available well enough to have a scoring opportunity 3) I would be remiss if I did not mention the performance of Brazil. Listening to Sundhage in the post-game press conference, one quickly realized that she respects the Brazilian desire for flair & style in “o jogo bonito”. What she has instilled onto the team is the need to defend even from their attacking stars like Marta & Debinha…. Something missing for so long from this sleeping giant of football. 4) Barring an injury, I have a sense that Vlatko has already formulated most of the roster for the Olympics. I’ll withhold my thoughts at this juncture as the injuries to O’Hara & Heath will influence my ideas as to what players will be heading to Tokyo following the match against Argentina. Stats: USA 2 Brazil 0. Goals: Press 11, Rapinoe 88.
USA -- Naeher; Sonnett, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, Dunn; Lavelle (K.Mewis, 83), Ertz, Horan; Williams (Smith, 65), Morgan (Lloyd, 71), Press (Rapinoe, 74).
Brazil -- Barbara; Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna Benites, Kathellen (Jucinara Soares, 72); Beatriz (Julia, 56), Marta, Andressinha; Andressa (Cristiane, 72), Ludmila (Gio, 72), Debinha.
Yellow cards: USA -- Horan 52; Brazil -- Bruna Benites 33, Tamires 58, Ludmila 80. Red cards: none.
Referee: Melissa Borjas (Honduras)
Att.: 4,000 (limited capacity
Contributed by Michael Saunders