USWNT narrowly escape elimination, Cardinal stay in title rivalry

This text is a part of a sequence on the 2023 World Cup. Learn protection of earlier video games right here.

It’s lower than two weeks into the Girls’s World Cup (WWC) and 5 Cardinal stay standing — barely. 

If it wasn’t for a margin of inches in Auckland, no Stanford participant could be left within the match. 

For 90 minutes, the U.S. was out-played and out-possessed in Auckland. They seemingly had no sport plan versus Portugal.

For the whole thing of the sport, it felt as if the match debutants had been one possession, one momentum shift, one counter assault away from a historic victory. Portugal, anchored by a formidable midfield, was undoubtedly in management.

It seemed like that breakthrough second for Portugal would lastly come as stoppage time started. Tied at zero, second-half substitute Ana Capeta broke via the US’ backline and took a robust strike.

Goalie Alyssa Naeher dove left.

The shot handed past her outstretched fingers. 

Was the USWNT’s dominance lastly coming to an in depth?

However the ball struck the goalpost.

The put up, not any United States participant, in the end held off the largest upset in Girls’s World Cup and U.S. soccer historical past. The draw uncovered the USWNT’s insecurity and predictable ways. 

The match might have — and maybe ought to have — been the primary time the U.S. ladies’s group has ever been knocked out of a World Cup within the group stage. However for now, they reside to see one other day.

“The participant of that match was the put up,” mentioned two-time World Cup champion turned FOX analyst Carli Lloyd throughout a postgame broadcast. “You’re fortunate to not be going house proper now.”

It’s a harsh however essential actuality examine.

“As we speak was simply merely uninspiring, disappointing,” Lloyd mentioned. “They don’t look match. They’re taking part in as people.”

The US entered the WWC as title favorites, however with the best way they’ve been taking part in, the elusive three-peat is trying much less and fewer and fewer seemingly with every sport. The USWNT topped Vietnam, however not within the dominant trend many followers anticipated. Then confronted with the Netherlands, the U.S. started to crack, solely forcing a draw. And within the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the US seemed completely defeated. They by no means had an opportunity to breathe, a lot much less put collectively sustained assaults. When the stadium fireplace alarm went off after halftime, the alarm bells appeared to be consultant of a bigger id disaster taking part in out on the pitch. The USWNT was scorched.

Tuesday’s tie marked the primary time in 13 video games that the U.S. was held scoreless.

“They’re taking part in to not lose, versus taking part in to win,” Lloyd mentioned. “That’s the distinction that I see. Portugal performed to win, and so they nearly did.”

Sophia Smith began the sport and had a number of promising passes into the field, however she was in the end out defended repeatedly. The US’ ahead was stripped of the ball, aggressively at instances, earlier than she might trigger any true disruptions to a staunch Portuguese backline and midfield. 

After incomes a yellow card, Smith was taken out after an hour of play to make method for winger Megan Rapinoe.

Like Smith, Naomi Girma ’22 has began all three video games and was one of many few shiny spots versus Portugal. 

The truth that Girma and the opposite U.S. defenders have solely given up one purpose within the match so far is a testomony to their reliability and talent, however the US have additionally been largely unchallenged, having not but confronted the high-powered offenses of groups akin to Japan or England. (The Netherlands took 5 photographs in opposition to the USWNT and just one, the eventual purpose, was on course.) 

Girma and the US will face Sweden within the first spherical of the knockout stage. Count on Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt, who’s already scored three targets on this World Cup, and ahead Fridolina Rolfö, who’s added two, to trigger bother. Sweden has outscored its opponents by eight of their first three group stage video games; examine that to solely a 3 purpose differential for the U.S. throughout the identical time span.

Regardless of a brand new beginning line-up within the midfield and substitutions all through the Portugal sport, Andi Sullivan ’18 once more performed all 90 minutes. Her place group, nonetheless, once more struggled to keep up management and win possession all through. After some time the USWNT simply bypassed the middle of the sector, passing lengthy balls up the pitch to keep away from Portugal’s staunch midfield with little success.

Defender Kelley O’Hara ’09 got here in within the closing minutes of the sport as an act of defensive desperation and supplied the management and the composure the group lacked. As she first ran onto the pitch she repeatedly pointed to her head as if to inform her teammates “use your head, play good.”

O’Hara, taking part in in her fourth World Cup, helped sluggish the sport down and took wind out of Portugal’s sails, stopping any extra explosive counter assaults. Along with her steerage, the US narrowly maintained a scoreless draw. When the ultimate whistle rang, O’Hara’s management was once more obvious. 

It was she who gathered the group and delivered a postgame speech — not head coach Vlatko Andovski. 

“I simply advised the group, ‘Pay attention, we did what we needed to do, We’re shifting on. The group stage is completed. That is over. It’s within the rearview. We’ve got our subsequent sport in entrance of us, and that’s the one one which issues,’” O’Hara mentioned. “Possibly we didn’t do it the best way we wished to, or deliberate on doing it, however we’re advancing. And that is the World Cup, and that’s all that issues.”

The vast majority of the knockout stage bracket is now secured with the U.S. ending second in its group behind the Netherlands. It is just the second time in USWNT historical past that the ladies’s group has not gained its group. The US subsequent performs in Melbourne on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 2:00 a.m. PT. 

It will likely be the U.S.’ first match of the match on the Australian subcontinent, after taking part in all three group stage video games on New Zealand soil. Let’s hope a brand new nation additionally brings renewed athleticism, reignited ardour and tactical ingenuity for the USWNT. To make the duty harder, midfielder Rose Lavelle will miss the elimination sport because of yellow card accumulation.

“They simply haven’t been clicking,” mentioned Julie Foudy ‘93 to CNN. “The factor that I preserve coming again to is it doesn’t really feel like there’s lots of chemistry. There’s not lots of confidence and swagger that we usually see with this U.S. group. I actually assume they should cease excited about the X’s and O’s and simply give attention to, let’s simply go get pleasure from this and play and have enjoyable and truly deliver some pleasure again to it.”