Aurora; Colorado — When familiar foes USA and Netherlands stepped onto the field, everyone expected a neck-to-neck game, but no one expected the Dutch to dominate as they did. The first 16 minutes of the game were ideal for the U.S., who kept a majority of the possession of the ball and created many chances to score. However, during USWNT chances, the Dutch defense would either read the situation perfectly or the U.S. would simply miss.
Despite that, the USNWT was organized and in control of the game.
Everything changed in the 17th-minute when Dutch forward Lieke Martens charged into the midfield unchallenged. Martens passed the ball to Victoria Pelova in a spot completely free of U.S. defenders. The ball pinged around the penalty box until Pelova passed it to Jill Roord who slammed it in the back of the net. As the whole Dutch team celebrated, it was obvious they weren’t afraid of the USWNT.
After Roord’s goal, the U.S. lost its confidence, making the whole team seem disconnected. More importantly, the USWNT’s midfield, which is supposed to hold the team together, was void of any chemistry. For the remainder of the half, the Netherlands did not play with the U.S.; instead, they played around them. The Dutch refused to let the U.S. have the ball as the USWNT executed painfully predictable plays. There were multiple harsh tackles from Dutch players that the referee ignored. When the whistle blew and half-time was over, most USWNT fans were relieved for the break.
Rose Lavelle, who has been recovering from an injury, subbed for Savannah Demolo at the beginning of the second half and gave a spark to the USWNT team. Lavelle’s effect on the pitch was instant, with her creative and energizing style being exactly what the U.S. needed. With her, the USWNT midfield became a cohesive unit that defended and started up the attack. Minutes after an aggressive tackle from Daniëlle van de Donk on Captain Linsey Horan, the U.S. earned a corner. The corner got delayed due to an argument between Donk and Horan. Once things calmed down, Lavelle flawlessly kicked the ball to Horan’s head, creating a perfect, "You Don't Know Where I'm From, DAWG" moment, and resulting in the first U.S. goal.
From that moment on, the U.S. properly dominated the game, but any chances created were wasted. Rodman, Morgan and Smith all played as if they left their scoring cleats at home. What was even more head-scratching than the forwards inability to score was Vlatko Andonovski's, USWNT manager, hesitation to sub players on to add a fresh set of legs to the game.
When the final whistle blew, there were glaring negatives in how the U.S. played the game. The first half was terrible as they were tactically outplayed on all areas of the pitch by the Netherlands. In the first half, USWNT midfielders weren't gelling or making any concrete efforts to gain the ball back, with the only exception being Horan. It’s never a good look when it takes 18 chances at the goal to score only one. Set pieces (corners and free-kicks) were subpar and all players in the attacking third lacked any clinicality.
In the end, the game was disappointing for the U.S. with the one positive being that they could come back from an opposition goal. The U.S. needs to play better than this if they want to win the World Cup.
Player Of The Match
Lyon midfielder, Lindsey Horan, was one of, if not the only, player for the U.S. who stood out during the tumultuous first half and the better second half. Horan constantly fought to hold the ball and make an impact in the game, with the most passes for a U.S. midfielder in the game. From blocking a goal to scoring the goal that gave the U.S. a draw, she refused to give up and made the most positive effect on the game. Seeing her work passionately for the USWNT shows why she deserved to be co-captain of this team.
Worst Performing Player
California native, Savannah Demelo, was a disappointment. Her inexperience with this team showed as she and her counterparts failed to make almost any connections on the field. With only ten touches in four-five minutes on the pitch, her time on the field was spent either being fouled or committing fouls.
To immediately qualify for the round of 16, regardless of other results in the group, the U.S. must draw or win against Portugal on Tuesday. This Portuguese team, with a majority of them playing in Portugal with few across Europe, is a step down from the Netherlands, but better than Vietnam. This unique challenge could give the USWNT a chance to re-establish their tactics and step up their performance. Although the U.S. is expected to win this game, with their lives on the line, this will be a nail-biter for fans.
Ayah Al-Masyabi, (she/her) is from Aurora, Colorado, and is an artist, writer and journalist who covers culture and sports. Follow her on Instagram @ayahalmart.
Edited by Nykeya Woods