Somehow, someway the U.S. women’s national team is into the quarterfinals in the Women’s World Cup. But if you watched each of the matches without the goals, you might think otherwise.
Through four games in this tournament, the U.S. has scored just six goals — one of which came on a penalty and two that came off of lucky deflection. And the Americans have averaged just five shots on goal per game, which is not exactly a good showing given the quality of opponents thus far in the tournament.
The results have nearly been disastrous. The U.S. was a clearance off the line by Meghan Klingenberg off the line away from losing against Sweden, and they only scored once against Nigeria and struggled at times against a very competitive Colombia side. And realistically, the U.S. is fortunate to be in the position they are in.
But moving forward, this team has to get better on the offensive end and it starts with changing the offensive formation and the tactics that come along with it against China.
First off, the biggest change that manager Jill Ellis has to make is the formation change. This 4-4-2 is not working at all for the U.S. While it’s paid off defensively for the Americans, the offensive attack has struggled. There’s been minimal to none linkage between the midfield and forwards and the two forwards, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan/Sydney Leroux, have struggled mightily to link up and get creative to create great chances.
The solution: move to the 4-3-3, which many fans, including myself, are clamoring for big time. The change, which may be easier given the suspensions of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday due to card accumulation, would push the U.S. into an attacking mindset. The Americans could play Wambach, Morgan and Leroux up front in a three-headed attack that would be very hard for opponents to defend. In short, that could be the winning move.
Also, the U.S. has to make a change in the way it gets the ball up front. Too many times the Americans were simply content to pass it long through the air and hope that Wambach or one of the other attackers would get on the other end of it. The results speak for themselves. Instead, the U.S. has to keep the ball closer to their ground, using their speed and knowledge to move the ball up the pitch and into those dangerous areas. The end game should result in more possession and more chances.
Of course, the one part of this squad that doesn’t need to be change is the defense. As bad as the offense has been, the defense has been outstanding for the U.S. The Americans have only conceded one goal in the tournament and that came in the first part of the first match against Australia. And that back line of Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston and Meghan Klingenberg with Hope Solo in net has been absolutely stellar and is the only thing keeping this team afloat.
But if the U.S. wants to repeat its 1999 success against China and be a legitimate threat going forward in this tournament, the offensive formation and their tactics have to be different come Friday evening.