USWNT: Just How Deep Is The Forward Spot?


In Sunday’s 0-0 tie against Brazil, the USWNT were missing some key attacking players in the starting lineup—it showed. Alex Morgan has shown marked improvement as she works to come back from an ankle injury that she received on Oct. 17 against Guatemala in the group stage of World Cup qualifying.

This absence was not a surprise as U.S Head Coach, Jill Ellis, had clarified in an interview beforehand that Morgan would not be playing in the tournament final against Brazil to prevent further injury. Another notable attacking absence was forward Sydney Leroux who was unavailable for choice after picking up a red card in the match against Argentina last Thursday, Dec 18th.

There is no doubt the U.S missed Leroux’s attacking prowess and sheer physicality on the field tonight. To add to the situation, the U.S team was without scoring power Christen Press, who returned home to the United States upon news that a family member had passed away. Press scored four goals in their last match against Argentina, which helped the USA erase a -7 goal differential and ultimately earned them a spot in the final against Brazil.

Without some of the best forwards in the world for the U.S side in their final match against Brazil, this presented an unusual problem for the coaching staff. It tested the depth of the U.S forward pool and the coaching staff responded by selecting Tobin Heath, Kelley O’Hara, and Abby Wambach to spearhead the U.S attack.

In the few chances the U.S had on attacking opportunities, the team was unable to put the ball away. Abby Wambach, the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer in the women’s game, failed to get on the score sheet tonight and uncharacteristically missed headers under pressure at the top of the six off both crosses and set pieces including a beautiful service into the box from Heath.

Wambach’s inconsistency in the past few matches has come under heavy fire on social media as many fans no longer see her as that “90 minute player” and some have even called for her retirement ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

And while O’Hara was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2009 as a forward for Stanford and was an attacking presence this past season in the National Women’s Soccer League for Sky Blue FC, it was clear Sunday night that the converted defensive mindset in O’hara seemed to show more than her success in the attacking third, as she was seen jockeying for position deep in the midfield on countless occasions.

Heath however, is not a converted defender; her career for the USWNT has been primarily on the flanks and in the final tonight she, like O’hara sunk back into the midfield, which shifted the USA into more of 4-4-2 formation with Lauren Holiday in the No. 10 position pushing forward to help Wambach up top.

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No U.S attacking player stood out tonight, which begs the question: just how deep  is the USA up top. With Morgan battling a chain of reoccurring ankle injuries and an aging Wambach, what happens in a World Cup semifinal in a similar freak situation? Yellow card accumulation, red card, or god forbid a serious ACL tear on the artificial surface?

These are all questions I hope the coaching staff has gone over and addressed because the way the USA played today against Brazil cannot be repeated in the World Cup Group Stage against the likes of Australia, Nigeria, or Sweden.

The outcome of tonight’s match comes at an unfortunate time. Not only was this frustrating tie the USWNT’s last game of 2014, but earlier in the week the FIFA World Rankings were updated. The USA found itself in an unusual position as Germany just edged them for the No. 1 spot.

The USWNT had maintained the No. 1 FIFA Ranking for seven years and while rankings are not everything, the recent performance in the Tournament of Brasilia only worked to confirm that the fight atop the world’s elite is indeed closing. As much as I hate to admit it, 2014 was a wake up call for the USA.

Everything is at state for the USWNT as they close their 2014 campaign and focus every bit of their attention on competing at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer. It’s going to take a lot more than just two friendlies and an Algarve Cup tournament if this team wants to hoist the World Cup in July.

Do you believe we will win? Let us know in the comments below.

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