Megan Rapinoe scored early in the first half off an Alex Morgan flick in windy conditions as the USWNT edged past Germany, 1-0, in a ragged game on Thursday night in Columbus.
1. A Familiar American Lineup
One suspects that the XI that stepped out onto the pitch for the U.S. on Thursday might end up being pretty close to the first choice squad that hops off the plane in 2019 in France. While Becky Sauerbrunn is likely to replace Tierna Davidson in the lineup once healthy, and Carli Lloyd could be usurped by Sam Mewis, the other nine players look solid bets for the starting lineup. After a long, long string of experimentation last year, the U.S. settling on a steady lineup could be a relief, though fans will certainly hope that performances improve from Thursday’s display.
2. Germans Lack the Final Touch
It’s a tale that German supporters have too often been forced to endure in recent years: talent and chance creation but little to show for it on the scoreboard. And so it was for most of the opening half from Columbus, with the likes of Svenja Huth creating a string of chances with crosses and others providing some smooth dribbling into the box, but nobody in white could pounce. They were a bit unlucky at times, with one shot shaving the far post, but the continued lack of goals against elite opposition has to be concerning. It’s difficult seeing the likes of Marozsan and Popp giving way any time soon, but Steffi Jones will surely be considering some of her other attacking options in this tournament’s other matches. Jones made a few changes in the attack towards the end of the second half, but her side struggled to regain the group they had on the game early in the first half.
3. Simple Goal Undoes German Backline
Germany came into this tournament with some serious questions on the backline, and the USWNT had clearly read the scouting report, targeting the left half of the German defense, manned by Verena Faisst, for much of the match. But Faisst was hardly at fault for the USWNT’s all too simple opener, with a long punt from Alyssa Naeher flicked on by Alex Morgan. Babett Peter was overpowered all too easily by Morgan in the air, especially considering Peter’s history of winning aerial challenges, while Leonie Maier never looked likely to halt Megan Rapinoe’s run. Otherwise, the German defense was passable, but a perceived proneness to big errors in big matches continues to plague it. The decision to not start aerial dominator Johanna Elsig at center-back, especially given the manner of the build up to Rapinoe’s goal, has to be questioned.
4. One is Enough for the U.S.
In a game of brutal fouls, oppressive winds, and occasional bursts of rain, a single, rudimentary goal was enough for an American victory. While the U.S. were up against it at times in the first half, they put their foot on the game more in the second half and just about deserved the victory. However, in the wake of England’s punishing beatdown of France earlier in the match, simply grinding out wins is hardly going to please the faithful. There are tactical questions considering the questions as well, with the U.S. taking long goal kicks and long corners instead of trying to play out from the back. While Rapinoe and Morgan had their moments, and Mallory Pugh looked on the precipice of a big night, the overall efforts in failing to force Schult into many saves in goal has to be a worry. But considering the frightful conditions, the USWNT will probably just pocket the win and move on to (hopefully) drier conditions and better showings.