The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) had positives to take away from Saturday’s performance, but the match also exposed some weaknesses.
The United States (U.S) struggled to get a foothold in the midfield, starting the trio of Andi Sullivan, Lindsey Horan, and Rose Lavelle against England.
The U.S. has had a hard time replacing the role that Julie Ertz made her own in 2019, covering immense amounts of space to break up possession in the defensive midfield.
With Sullivan (and then Sam Coffey) isolated, England dominated the midfield battle with relative ease, completing 616 passes to the USWNT’s 260 and maintaining 70% of the possession.
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Horan and Lavelle commit to their defensive assignments, but they’re ultimately running forward more often than they hold.
The best starting USWNT midfield group remains unclear, but the inability to reshape the formation to support current talent could prove an even bigger issue.
One clear bright spot from Friday’s match was Sophia Smith’s rise on the world stage.
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The 22-year-old became the USWNT’s most effective attacking generator against England, scoring the team’s lone goal.
Smith played center forward for much of the match due to personnel limitations, with Megan Rapinoe and Trinity Rodman as the wingers beside her.
The Thorns striker showed off her versatility and tenacity on the dribble, drifting into space to be in the right place at the right time.
She leads the team with 10 goals this calendar year.
It’s easy to forget how young Smith still is and how new she is to being the focal point of the U.S. attack.
She looked like a seasoned pro on Friday, and according to coach Vlatko Andonovski, she hasn’t even begun to reach her ceiling: “I think we haven’t seen the best of her.”
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