Rose Lavelle changed the game against the Netherlands. Coming on for Savannah DeMelo – who has done a valiant job deputising in midfield- after the break, she turned the tide in the USA’s favor. Her boundless energy and intensity in the press jolted the team into gear, bringing a new belief and momentum to the side.
She also provided that extra bit of technical quality and creativity in midfield and the final third, which is something Vlatko Andonovski’s team have lacked in the first two games of this tournament. Having played and scored in the 2019 World Cup final, she also contributes a wealth of experience and know-how, which again is vital for a side that contains so many young stars playing their first tournament at this level. Put more succinctly, Rose Lavelle’s absence has really affected this squad.
“Rose is one of the best players in the world, and not having her fully for 90 minutes in the first two games obviously impacted the team,” recognizes head coach Vlatko Andonovski the day before the USA’s final group game against Portugal. “Coming into this World Cup she was penciled in as a starter a long time ago, as were a lot of other players. So, the impact of Rose’s injury is not just the minutes she didn’t play because we had to restructure things and we had to find that next starter,” he continues.
Lavelle, who has made 90 appearances for the national team, has lived a frustrating few months after suffering an injury in a friendly against Ireland on April 8 that cast doubt over her selection availability for this tournament. She didn’t play a single competitive minute until coming on as a substitute in the USWNT’s opener against Vietnam. Her inclusion in the roster, despite major injury concerns, is another indication of her importance to the team and its identity.
Her impact coming off the bench has been clear to see- within ten minutes, she had already set up captain Lindsey Horan’s equalizer against the Netherlands and continued to be a major threat for the remainder of the game. “When she’s on the field we can see how she can change the game,” continued Andonovski during Monday’s press conference.
“It’s clear how important she is for the team from the defensive standpoint, but also from the attacking standpoint she generates chances and makes things happen on the field individually or in combination with other players. So, we’re very happy that her minutes have been increasing and looking forward to the next game and seeing her more on the field.”
Lavelle is the missing piece in the USA’s puzzle, the catalyst to get them firing on all cylinders. Like Vlatko said, in defense she is incredibly effective at leading the press from the front and winning the ball back- a real pain for opposition players. Going forward, her intelligent runs (both on and off the ball), proactive passes, silky dribbling and eye for goal takes the offensive output to a whole new level. That’s something that this team desperately needs after struggling in the first two games in front of goal.
Lavelle’s playing time continues to increase, having disputed 30 minutes in game one and the entire second half against the Netherlands. That could suggest the tricky midfielder might start the game against Portugal on Tuesday for the Group E’s defining game. Her presence from the get-go would certainly be a major boost for the starting XI in a game of such high stakes. The USA must win to avoid any potential upset and elimination this early in the tournament.