An effective but rather humdrum start for the favored United States into the Women’s World Cup is either one of two things:
This is manager Jill Ellis not having a solid handle on what her team is all about, especially on attack, still struggling with how to balance an aging workhorse inspiration of a forward (Abby Wambach) and a younger horse coming off injury (Alex Morgan, a.k.a. Baby Horse).
Ellis was also straining to sort out her midfield, which wasn’t much of one for two matches. Or, not one capable of competing at a world class level, at any rate.
The other way to look at this team’s tentative tippy-toe into the Women’s World Cup, a point of view dappled in a little more sunshine, looks like this: the United States was content to work its way into the tournament, confident that they came to Canada to play in seven WWC 2015 matches, not just three.
It’s certainly better to have all your attacking and defending ducks in a row before arrival into a big tournament, but working your way into a World Cup is not exactly a felony level offense in soccer.
After all, we’ve seen teams do this in plenty of men’s World Cups, haven’t we? We can find examples going back as far as you’d like.
Argentina looked anything like a world beater in 1990 group play but eventually made the final during that year’s title defense. England scored just two goals in group play at Italia ’90 but found its feet (somewhat) and made it all the way into a semifinal PK loss to eventual champion Germany
Italy started with a thud in World Cup USA in 1994 but finished at the Rose Bowl in the final. Netherlands teams in 1998 and 2010 looked a bit average in group play but advanced into the semifinals and the final of those tournaments, respectively.
And on it goes. Whether teams can develop into the best version of themselves throughout a month-long tournament isn’t in question. They can and have. What does remain in question as the United States awaits word on its second-round opposition is this: which case will eventually describe this ongoing U.S. effort? Because right now, we’re all just guessing.
The United States did win its Group, and congrats for that. And if you follow the women’s game, you know if was a bugger of a group, one that included a rising Australia, a traditionally powerful Sweden and a highly athletic Nigerian team. So credit to Ellis’ side for finishing atop a formidable foursome.