Aurora; Colorado — When the lineup came out for the USWNT against Portugal, coach Vlatko Andonovski’s changes to the midfield and front three made it look as if this game might be better than the others. However, like all the USWNT games this world cup, the U.S. had a good, but not great, start to the game. In the beginning, the U.S. had a majority of the ball, but it was an aggressive back-and-forth game. When USWNT created chances, the forwards missed them or the ball was stopped by the Portuguese goalkeeper and defense.
Portugal played sloppily and sometimes aggressively, but as the time turned to double digits, they improved. They quickly took over the game as Portugal dominated the midfield and fought for the ball. The U.S. midfield collapsed as they found themselves playing as individuals and not as a team, the opposite of Portugal’s play. The U.S. occasionally got chances, but they failed to get their foot on the right side of the ball. While some players, like Rose Lavelle, attempted to steal the ball back from Portugal, they largely failed, and in Lavelle's case got a yellow card. After receiving her second yellow card of the tournament, Lavelle is now unavailable for the next match.
The second half didn't start off any better for the U.S., as Portugal's domination caused the U.S. some frustration, particularly Sophia Smith, who got a yellow for kicking Portuguese Diana Silva in the face. Both teams, especially Portugal, got more desperate for a goal, which caused the game to be more back and forth. As time passed, the U.S. earned a majority of the chances but still failed to get the ball in the back of the net.
As the clock ticked down to 90 minutes, Portugal played as if they believed they could get a goal and continue in the tournament. Their confidence resulted in multiple close shots that barely missed the goal. The closest occurred in the 90th minute when a long ball made its way to Ana Capeta, who outran her defenders and made a stunning shot straight at an empty goal. The ball missed the net by less than an inch as it bounced off the post.
Portugal continued to create chances until the last minute but failed to score as the game ended, causing them to be eliminated from the tournament. The U.S. draw allowed them to progress, barely, as they were inches away from failure. Despite the player changes, the U.S. midfield failed to control the pitch and were completely run over by Portugal. The defense managed to stop Portugal, but there were important moments when players evaded them. Most frustrating of all, USWNT forwards failed to take advantage of the many chances they were given. While no USWNT player impressed, it is time to start shifting some of the blame onto Vlatko Andonovski, whose tactics continue to be flat and predictable for the opposition. His substitution choices were also odd, as they seemed random and were mostly ineffective in changing the game.
Player Of The Match
Cincinnati, Ohio native Rose Lavelle was the best player for USWNT, even when everyone on the pitch didn’t play at their best. Despite being a part of a midfield that miserably failed to hold its ground, Lavelle still managed to help both the defense and offense. She won 5 tackles, made 2 clearances, and aided in offense by making 3 key passes. Although it is hard to choose the best player in such a frustrating team performance, Lavella’s play made it a little easier.
Worst Performing Player
Sophia Smith, out of all the ineffective forwards, was the most disappointing. After an exciting goalscoring start to the tournament, Smith faced her third game with a yellow card, only one chance on goal, and thirteen passes. She looked lost on the field, and lost the ball too easily. Sophia Smith started the tournament expecting to be the breakout player, and USWNT fans still hope she ends it that way too.
The USWNT is expected to play against rival Sweden on Sunday in the round of 16, which is the most played fixture in Women’s World Cup History. Sweden made it to the semi-finals of the Women’s Euros last summer with a roster that had players from top clubs in Europe and America. Sweden is one of the last teams the U.S. wants to face, as their quality all over the pitch will be difficult to beat. This match is expected to be a difficult one for both teams, but especially the USWNT with their record-breakingly bad recent performances.
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