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First World Cup win inspires little confidence in USWNT coach Jill Ellis

jill ellis

The best quality of the U.S. women’s national team is that when they play as poorly as they did Monday night, they are able to win and win with style.  While Australia may ultimately prove to be a legitimately world class squad, the match showed the U.S. has the ability to play a C level game and get an A level result.  However, the match did little to resolve some of the lingering questions around U.S. head coach Jill Ellis.

Ellis, for those unaware, was an extremely successful college coach who was appointed to the technical staff of the U.S. national team in the late 1990s.  While she had briefly been the interim head coach between Pia Sundhage and Tom Sermanni, this is her first major tournament in charge of the team and, with the U.S. not having won the World Cup since 1999, she has a high bar of success to cross.

Coming into the match, the Matildas’ game plan was well known – use speed to run past the slower U.S. that has struggled to contain faster teams in the past.  The U.S. countered with a 4-4-2 that, according to Ellis and the players after the game, was designed to spread the field and allow the U.S. to exploit the flanks to create opportunities.

Instead it opened up the U.S. to potential disaster, and only through individual skill of certain U.S. defenders like Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo was the scoreline not decidedly different.

The first 20-30 minutes of the match showed a U.S. team with some rust or that had been initially out game-planned.  By sticking an extra played in the midfield, Australia prevented the U.S. from exploiting the flanks and instead allowed their midfielders to own possession and test the speed of the U.S. center-backs with their own speed upfront.  The U.S. midfield lacked a true holding or defensive midfielder, which too often left the backline defending quicker players one-on-one or chasing down balls over the top.  Lisa de Vanna was a threat throughout and the U.S. was lucky to not be down 2-1 early, with Hope Solo proving why she may be the tournament’s best keeper.  In fact, without the fortunate deflection, the U.S. should have been trailing at half-time.  While some can be attributed to, again, the rust factor, coach Ellis’s game prep should be questioned here as it was not a secret that Australia was fast up front.

At half-time the U.S. adjusted and began to play with more possession, primarily through short passing then springing the long ball to great effect after spreading out the Australian defense.  This tactic against a winded Australian team created space for both Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press to exploit on their goals.  That said, the team put onto the field – and even somewhat the substitutes – seem more suited for a 4-3-3 than the flat 4-4-2 they played throughout.  Australia may not be good enough to exploit it, but we’ll see if Sweden is on Friday.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Lawrence Dockery

    June 10, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Hiring Jill Ellis was one of the worst decisions Sunil Gulati has made as USSF President. We should have never fired Tom Sermanni. ANd nothing will ever convince me that Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, and Hope Solo didn’t get him fired. He was bringing in lots of younger, newer players and that threatened their position in the team. So instead of just competing and keeping their starting spots, they complained and got the coach fired, and kept their starting spots. Even Pia Sundhage(whose one fault as US manager was that she developed very few younger players) said that if she was still in charge, there is no way Abby Wambach would still be a starter.

  2. Eplnfl

    June 10, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Coaching may be a issue but the fact that people want to avoid is that the U.S. Team is old and slow and is most likely over ranked at number 2. Their lack of youth and speed cost them in the last World Cup in my opinion. Often in sports it becomes had to say we need to bring in youth and despite a great run a veteran player needs to be let go for the good of the Team. This especially seems true right now with the USWNT. Germany looks to be in their prime and Brazil looks like they can run by the slower US Team.

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