After two unconvincing performances from the US Women’s Team at the World Cup, head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision making has been called into question. It was only really against the Netherlands, which was the first proper test for the USA after a comfortable victory against Vietnam (3-0), that the issues he and this team have started to show.
Against the Dutch, the team seemed to lack a clear tactical identity. At times they pressed, at times they sat back, they tried to exploit the wide areas but when that didn’t work, they went long. It all seemed a bit confused, and the players weren’t really on the same page. “We weren’t really in sync,” said midfield anchor Andi Sullivan after the game. “Of course, sometimes when you adjust, it’s going to take a second to get on the same page. We have full confidence in each other that no matter what we do, we will figure it out, and we will execute,” she continued.
The lack of chemistry was particularly noticeable in the attack. Despite arguably being the three best and most exciting players on this team, Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman still haven’t really clicked.
Aside from Smith, who’s scored twice and assisted once in this tournament so far, the other two stars haven’t brought their A-game when it comes to finishing. They’ve both lacked that cutting edge in the final third and have been wasteful with chances. Against Vietnam, they managed 28 shots, with only eight on target. It was a similar story against the Netherlands: they amassed 18 shots with four on target, only one of which found the back of the net. Their lack of playing time together is really showing. They’re yet to fire on all cylinders.
Against the Dutch, the USA needed to make a substitution. The team were crying out for some fresh legs and someone to offer something different- especially in attack. They needed a game changer… and they had plenty available. There were heaps of talent on the bench with players like Lynn Williams (who Vlatko himself has described as the best 15-minute player he’s ever seen), Megan Rapinoe, Alyssa Thompson and Rose Lavelle all ready if called upon. The latter did come at half time and made an instant impact by assisting Lindsey Horan’s bullet header. But that would be it for the subs. Not a single change was made for the rest of the second half.
The lack of movement from the bench confused many and it was a topic addressed after the game. “We were around the goal the whole time, and I just didn’t want to disrupt the rhythm at that point because sometimes a substitute comes in and it might take a minute or two to get into a rhythm,” said Andonovski in the post-match press conference. “We just didn’t want to jeopardize anything because I thought all three of our forwards were very good today, dangerous, created opportunities and were a handful.”
The comment certainly raised some eyebrows and a lot of people – including former pros- didn’t agree with the manager. “Am I wrong to think that with #USWNT bench this makes no sense?!” questioned former MLS player and now presenter Taylor Twellman on Twitter during the match”. Arsenal and England legend Ian Wright, who was watching the game live from the Wellington Regional Stadium, was also baffled by the lack of changes. “Bro. Please. Players at that level don’t need minutes to adjust. Look at Lavelle. Certain players had 90 minutes and never adjusted,” tweeted the former ‘Gunner’.
The criticism comes after former USWNT legend Carli LLoyd publicly expressed her concern over Andonovski’s tactical management- especially in terms of his inability to get the most out of the attacking talent this roster has. “To be perfectly blunt, this has been a general theme [lack of goals] with Vlatko ever since he became the coach in 2019,” she began. “Two years ago, at the Olympics, we had chances that we weren’t putting away. That’s worrying.”
It remains to be seen if Andonovski makes any tactical tweaks for the USA’s decisive group E fixture against Portugal. A change to the lineup certainly would be justified after these first couple of games. A loss would see the USWNT crash out of the tournament at the group stages.