Takeaways from USWNT loss to France
By LACEY DAVIS
College Contributor Network
The US women suffered a tough loss against the third-ranked French team on Sunday. Multiple players who usually start the game were benched for varying reasons such as suspension, injuries and experimenting with the lineup prior to the World Cup in June.
The struggle to control the ball at midfield had a rippling effect that made the entire game difficult to control. There were technical breakdowns all over the field, primarily at midfield and up top.
Many of the times the ball was taken by the American defense and passed up to midfield, plays were sloppy, intercepted and players didn't seem to be communicating as efficiently as usual.
When the play breaks down at midfield, it provides fewer opportunities for the forwards, Alex Morgan and Christen Press for the majority of the game, to make plays up top. It also forces most of the game to be played in the lower third of the field for the United States, eventually wearing down on the defenders and allowing the French more chances in front to the net.
Doctors have just recently given Lori Chalupny the go-ahead after having to take five years off due to concussion woes. Upon her return, she was pushed to a new position as left defender and now needs time to adjust to the changes. A few errors on her side of the field made it clear that she isn't back to the top of her game. However, she still has a few months before the tournament in June.
This was Morgan's first game back since an injury last October, something apparent at certain moments, as well. Her touch wasn't as crisp as usual, with a few shots veering wide of the goal that might have typically been on target. Again, with time left before the World Cup, this isn't too much of a concern. She'll have several practices and a few friendlies to get her touch back.
Wambach didn't join the game until the 63rd minute. At 34 years old, it's becoming unrealistic to expect her to play the full 90 minutes of seven consecutive games during the World Cup. USWNT head coach, Jill Ellis, was likely trying a new starting lineup in the case that Wambach needs to take the bench for part of the tournament, whether it be in a substitute's role or full game off.
Once Wambach entered the game, she was almost instantly given a penalty kick opportunity. Keeping with the trend of the rest of the game, her shot was blocked. However, it brought needed energy to the Americans -- proving that Wambach is needed as much for her leadership and energy on the field as she is for her talent.
Others that weren't playing included injured players such as defender Christie Rampone, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forward Sydney Leroux. Hope Solo was out due to her suspension for 30 days, which began in late January.
Although some may argue that the score could have been different if Solo were in goal, it wouldn't have likely changed the outcome. The US was unable to score and the first goal by France was hardly goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris' fault.
This was only the fifth cap for Harris. However, she will probably see more playing time in Solo's absence the next few games. Having Harris and the other backup goalkeepers, Nicole Barnhart and Alyssa Naeher, gain more experience is crucial to the team's ultimate success in the case that Solo gets injured during the tournament.
Also, Ellis and the US Soccer Federation have made it clear that they won't stand for the disturbances that Solo has been known to cause. One more widely publicized mistake and the team could be looking for a new permanent goalkeeper.
This past game was a realistic test for the team heading into the World Cup. It was played on turf, which is a much different, faster game that they'll be playing on in June. There were also a few crucial players on the bench. With the chance of injuries and suspensions, this could be very similar to lineups that will be seen in the future.
Ellis and the team have another test on Friday against a strong English team. Adjustments will surely be seen to create the strongest team possible moving forward.
Lacey Davis is a senior at the University of Georgia. She is a passionate fan of the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @laceyanne_davis.