Yesterday the USWNT beat Colombia 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Things have yet to click for the US as they punched in another grinding, hiccupping performance against a very game Colombian side.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the women’s game is the lack of cynicism. The men’s game, especially the World Cup, is a world-class diving exhibition. Players, even the very best (*cough* Neymar *cough*), selfishly flop and dive and roll around in histrionics. Yesterday Colombia made up for years of solid, honest play at the Women’s World Cup with a flop fest for the ages.
If an American sneezed on a Cafetera, she went down screaming. It is being reported that forward Ingrid Vidal just got a call from Hollywood. The ref was a sucker for all the diving, as the US was charged with 22 fouls. In the entirety of group play, we averaged only 10 fouls a game. We somehow managed to commit more than double that.
The gamemanship of Colombia and inconsistent officiating had me terrified of a fluke upset. Especially after Abby Wambach missed her penalty (actually her whiff preserved my bold prediction streak (and if you believe my bold predictions are infallible, I have a MLS franchise in Miami to sell you!)). Luckily, the ref was forced to call the egregious penalties that allowed us to go a player up and ice the victory.
Again, just like against Australia, Rapinoe and Holiday both got soft yellows in the first half. Now both will be out for Friday’s showdown with China. Coach Jill Ellis is going to have to get creative with her lineup, as Pinoe and Holiday have started every match so far. The US, even with their ideal eleven, failed to create much of an attack yesterday. Against the bunkering defense of China, the absence of both creative midfielders will be felt. Almost every goal scored by the US this Cup has been somehow affected by Pinoe. I’d love to see us overload on forwards in a 4-3-3, get Morgan, Press and Leroux (or Rodriguez) pressing high and making runs, but I doubt Ellis gets that out-of-the-box. The US just hasn’t been creative this World Cup.
In Ellis’s postgame presser, when asked what she thought of the US’s attack and ball movement, she said she was pleased. That was the wrong answer. Through 4 games, the US has failed to sustain an attack. We have three goals in our last three games, the last two against subpar defenses. We’ve benefitted from red cards in our last two games and two penalties yesterday. We have three goals to show for it.
Ellis preaches strong defense. This is great. But it seems she just kinda lets the offense do its thing. She reminds me of Rex Ryan coaching the Jets: merely focusing on fielding a formidable defense while settling for a mediocre O. But it’s not like the USWNT only has Mark Sanchez to lead the attack. Maybe the better analogy is Buddy Ryan and the 1990 Philadelphia Eagles. Buddy coached the hell out of a star-studded defense, but couldn’t be bothered to worry about offense. He wasted prime years of Randall Cunningham, Mike Quick, Fred Barnett and others’ careers. It is almost a coaching crime to let Pinoe, Morgan, Holiday and Press lie fallow.