Women’s World Cup: The US should attack till the end against the Netherlands

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Players of USA celebrate after winning the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Players of USA celebrate after winning the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Megan Rapinoe “good to go” for US-Netherlands World Cup Final

On Sunday, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team faces the Netherlands in the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final. Expect the US to take an early lead. In all six of their 2019 World Cup matches, the US scored first. They also scored quickly, within the first 13 minutes. In their Group Stage match against Sweden, the United States scored in the third minute.

In the knockouts, the US has been content to sit back and defend once they’ve secured the lead. I understand the wisdom of this entrenchment. I just don’t like it. This defensive tactic is what Hope Solo got so worked up after the US lost to Sweden in the 2017 Rio Olympics . I get it: It saves legs and prevents injury. It is also a drag to watch. It wasn’t so bad in the Round of 16 game against Spain. Of course, the Spanish unsettled the US team, especially after Spain had the moxie to score against them — they’d managed shutouts up to that point. Still, the US pulled off the win.

After that, the US defense pulled it together and astonished in their quarterfinal against France, despite conceding a late goal. They pretty much shut things down in the 81st minute when Julie Erst joined the other defenders, creating a back five . There were five minutes of added time in that game, so the US team withstood attack after French attack for 14 straight minutes. Again, they prevailed.

The England semifinal was the hardest to watch, but I’ll get back to that. First I have to say, English striker Ellen White played out of her mind in that match. She answered the USA’s early goal with one of her own. After the US scored again, White added a second to tie the game yet again, however her goal was ruled offside. VAR shows White was offside, but only by millimeters. After this reversal, Ellis and the US,  went to their back five.

That didn’t trouble Ellen White. Even with five defenders, she broke through the American defense, rushing into the box with and without the ball. On one of her runs, US defender Becky Sauerbrunn tripped White, earning England a potential game-tying penalty kick.

US keeper Alyssa Neher saved the unconvincing penalty shot. After this save, the US hunkered down, just about everybody back defending. Only the forward players crossed the midline. When they did, they dribbled for the corner flag. The team maintained this tactic after England went down to 10 players . In this unseemly manner, the United States rode out the game and sealed their place in the final.

I realize many people called the USA-France game, “the real final,” however, I warn you, do not disrespect, or underestimate, the Netherlands. After all, the Dutch team is the reigning UEFA Champion. Also, they are disarmingly patient. Ask Sweden.

Despite the exuberant Dutch fans, and unlike the USA-England match, the Sweden/Netherlands semifinal was subdued, a stalemate with about ten exhilarating moments. Regulation time ended with a score of 0-0. In the extra period, it appeared that Sweden employed a kill-the-clock approach of its own. I suppose they were confident they could defend against a goal, then clinch the match in a penalty shoot out.

Sweden never made it to the shoot out. The Dutch team found a way through. Midfielder Jackie Groenen scored in the 99th minute of extended time.

The Dutch are organized and methodical. Their players communicate constantly. They can withstand a surprising amount of pressure. The team likes to build and they like possession. The Netherlands also likes to score late goals. They scored in the 90th minute in their Round of 16 game against Japan. In the quarterfinal against Italy, they scored in 70th and 80th minute. They broke though in their semi against Sweden in minute 99.

USWNT win over Sweden convinces skeptics. dark. Next

It would be a mistake for the US to see out the final with the caution they used against France and England. The US women have proved the strongest, fittest, most ambitious team in the tournament. Their attacking game is scintillating. I’d love to see it throughout the entire match. There are no more games to rest and stay healthy for. I’d hate to see an injury on either side. Still, in tomorrow’s game against the Netherlands, I want to see the US attack until the final whistle.