US 7 Costa Rica 0
Mission accomplished - the US is on its way to WWC 2003!!! A nice offensive performance throughout the game and it was a relief that they actually managed to finish some in the second half. I must say, doing so many of these match reports in such a short period of time where the level of competition has not been particularly high, leaves me at a bit of a loss on what to say about this one. Iíve already said most of it - Iíll try to keep this one short, especially the playerís section, so as not to be too redundant. I guess I do have one concern Iíve not discussed yet and was highlighted in this outing. The finishing - 37 shots . . . 37 shots . . . roll that around for a little while - 37 shots - thirty . . . seven. The efficiency of the US offense needs some work. There were a ridiculous number of "should haves" in this one - by herself, Joy should have had the US up 3-0 at the half - there are always going to be "could haves" but they have got to cut down on the "shoulds." If this were an isolated incident, then I wouldnít even mention it, but it seems like for as long as Iíve been doing these for public consumption, Iíve been mentioning something about the finishing - usually I write it off with some pithy comment like "if finishing is our biggest problem then weíre OK" or something like that. But at the point finishing has been a problem for years, that the US gets more opportunities in a game than most teams, and Iím talking good teams, get in 3 or 4 games combined, I think it officially becomes an area of concern. In my opinion, the US has more offensive fire power right now than theyíve had since the days of the triple edged sword - maybe theyíre aware of that, and donít have the urgency with these opportunities that they need to have, who knows. But one thing I do know is that as inefficient as the US is, thatís how efficient Norway is, thatís how efficient Canada has been throughout this tournament (keep in mind I have yet to see the Canada-Mexico match) and thatís how efficient the US should be striving to be. So thatís my concern coming out of this match. They have got to get more efficient with their chances - that they get so many chances definitely speaks to how well theyíre playing . . . Iím not quite sure what their not making the most of an inordinate number of those chances speaks to . . . thatís something for them to figure out and they should figure that out soon. All that said, it was a nice win and a fun one to watch. A nice lead in to the Canada match.
Formation - 4-3-3, back-front, right-left
GK - Scurry; D - Reddick, Fawcett, Chastain, Benson; DMid - Roberts; Mid - Foudy, Wagner; F - MacMillan, Parlow, Lilly (Lilly and Mac switched and Lil wound up spending a lot of the game on the right with Mac on the left). Subs - Fair in for Benson, Hucles in for Roberts, Foudy moves to the defensive mid, Hucles plays on the right. Just like with the front line, the right and left midfielder switch back and forth throughout the game. Hamm in for Parlow.
Scurry - Hmmm - Iím out - canít even pretend to come up with anything even remotely clever . . . I have gone from SNLís killer bees to the bee girl from the Blind Melon video though. Really not enjoying the yellow jerseys. Yup - thatís it.
Reddick - my goodness - look what happens when you put her on the right. I thought she looked terrific in this one - just so much more at ease on the right both offensively and defensively. Sheís obviously quite a bit more accustomed to reading the game from this perspective and playing on this side of the field. She was moving forward confidently and making very timely runs up the flank and cutting in through the center of the field. And, her service was fantastic. Cat had a restart that wound up about 35-40 yards away right on to Aly (one of the "should haves" of the first half) and that pass at the start of the second half that went to CP for the goal was a precision pass from distance. Aly and Julie are the only two others who have been delivering passes from that distance with that accuracy with any regularity at all and I donít know that Iíve seen them do it just a whole lot better than Cat did in this one. Great stuff. Defensively she also looked much more at home in this one - a nice solid effort all the way around. This was easily her best outing of the tournament and in my opinion she is only further solidifying her place on this team. Iíll be interested to see whether April lets Cat stay on the right and puts Kate out on the left wing on Saturday. I honestly donít think it matters a whole lot which side Kate plays on as where Cat looks much stronger to me out right. Besides, it spaces the speed around that backline better - instead of switching Brandi and Joy, switch the wings. Donít know how thrilled thatís going to make Lil since she likes to get that ball from the left wing, but thereís no law saying Brandi canít shoot out there on occasion and do it. Should be interesting - I think theyíve got their 4 on defense though (until Slaton is back at full strength, at which point it will probably become a 5 woman rotation).
Fawcett - Oh my goodness - how many chances did she want - three gimme goals in the first half, one in the second. Thatís got to be frustrating. On the other hand, that Joy had so many opportunities was great - she is really becoming a favorite target on set pieces. Joy is so strong in the air - I still donít think she gets enough credit for that. Defensively and in the box, she uses her head well - like everyone else, she needs to be more efficient, but a central defender who is a legitimate scoring option is a fantastic thing. Defensively, very little to do - Aly and Foudy were taking care of distributing and switching fields, so Joy had little responsibility there as well. Basically, she got forward nicely and had some nice opportunities on set pieces and thatís all I got. Hope she gets that head of hers ready for all the long balls that sheís going to see on Saturday - sheís definitely going to need to be in full "head as backstop" mode for the final.
Chastain - Everyone always makes such a fuss about how Brandiís the target in the box on set pieces, but Joy took center stage on that count in this one. Brandi had some nice defensive moments, made some nice runs forward and combined with Aly and Julie fairly well, but she really had a quiet outing. And as usual, a quiet outing for the central defender is a good good thing, so solid game.
Benson - I thought she had a solid outing, nice defensively, sent in some nice crosses . . . I still think sheís on a slightly different page speed of play wise from most of the team. Just holds onto the ball a little too long - when you see her out wide and the whole offense jump offside and then have to double back on, thatís a speed of play issue - more specifically, thatís her speed of play issue. Time and experience might take care of that - I think sheís solid enough defensively and provides enough offensively to continue to give her a chance, but I donít know if theyíre going to. Seems to be an awful lot of Lorrie Fair in the back lately and unfortunately, I think that might be the direction in which theyíre headed - Fair that close to goal with all those turnovers concerns the heck out of me against stronger opponents. Weíll see where this is headed though . . . for Benson in this one, solid game and I hope sheís still in the mix.
Roberts - I donít have much here - made some nice runs through the middle of the field. Had a couple of opportunities early on. With Aly and Foudy running the show and not a lot of defense to be played, those runs through the center of the field is about all Iíve got. Itís a very fluid midfield. Thatís it - I either lost her (I donít think thatís it - I do remember her, just donít remember a lot that was notable - usually when I lose someone, I have no recollection at all), or she just didnít do a whole bunch in this one. Not a good or bad outing, just a very quiet one.
Foudy - Along with Joy she seemed to miss out on the most gimme goals in this one - I felt her pain. Itís a shame she was called offside (and yes, it was a good call) because she deserved one. Sheís another player who doesnít get her due on set pieces - she is so good at positioning herself in the box on set pieces. She was on the end of several balls in this one. Very methodical in ball distribution - definitely beginning to see a difference in style between Aly and Foudy. Foudy is much more methodical trying to pick her way through a crowded midfield and Aly just puts the pedal to the metal and drives. Put them in there together playing on the same line and itís a very interesting result. At times I think they lost some offensive shape, but the defense just must not have any idea from where or who the ball is coming - again, they got some great chances in the first half - they just squandered them. In the second half, Foudy was a bit withdrawn and the roles of Julie and Aly were delineated a bit - Aly seemed to be attacking a bit more aggressively for herself and trying to find the end target player while Foudy was doing a bit more of the strategizing and playmaking. I think that helped the offense stay a bit more organized. I donít think theyíre going to run into a "too many chefs in the kitchen" problem, but you throw Lil into the mix (she was up top trying to finish and not playmaking or dictating tactics too much) and thereís a lot of folks trying to run the show. All thatís much ado about nothing though - probably never going to be an issue especially once that diamond midfield returns. Nice game from Foudy though, CPís first goal was all Jules (itís almost a shame CP gets credit for those - at least she actually did redirect that one a little bit, unlike the one she scored from Lil a few games ago) and I was rooting for her to net one of those nice chances she had.
Wagner - best player on the field in the first half. She was all over the place - sending in balls from wide left, making timely runs through the box, sending timely balls into the box. She had several "should haves" in the first half - a nice header that didnít go and a nice shot as well. The most impressive thing about Aly though is that ability to see the field and make the perfect pass. She is remarkably accurate and sees absolutely everything and everyone out there no matter whether sheís stuck out wide, or right in the middle of the field. She is equally impressive passing from distance as she is threading the needle and slotting the ball between 3 defenders. Amazing. Great stuff. Nice outing and as always, Iím looking forward to seeing more.
MacMillan - I must say, Iím not enjoying the rotating of the forwards so much. You know that gimme goal she missed by a foot in the first 5-6 minutes - you know - that opportunity where she had so much time and space she could have plopped down on the field and knitted a sweater before taking the shot. From where did she take that one? Left - she took it from the left side - she would never have missed that shot with all that time and space from the right side. I donít know, maybe Iím being rigid and ornery, but seeing her on the left most of the first half with Lil on the right, I just have to wonder if everyone is being put in the position to be as successful as possible. Maybe the idea is to strengthen what is weak in some of these players or simply to keep the defense guessing, but it seems to me Macís done OK for herself being a right footed, right sided player and Lilís done OK on the left, and theyíve both managed to make some nice contributions from those spots, such that maybe when the movement stops Mac should be on the right for a slightly larger percentage of the time. Nice outing though - very strong workrate. A couple of those corners got away from her, but on the other hand, if Iím recalling correctly, she put one of those on Joyís head. And her goal was great - just teed up that deflection and pounded it toward goal. Good game - huge improvement in this tournament from what we saw in Nike Cup.
Parlow - I must say, Iím a little surprised she came out in the second half, because she didnít play a whole heck of a lot in the first one - definitely a tale of two halves with her. In that first half, she was completely invisible - terrible workrate (which is always whatís most disappointing in her games where sheís not "on"), late making her runs, not helping with the ball winning in the midfield. Nothiní - I was ready to completely destroy her in this little match report - just coming up with such entertaining little taunts - even the goal was all Foudy . . . Then, in the second half, she came out and looked like a different player. So, while this wonít be as much fun as writing an excoriating Cindy Parlow diatribe, ultimately it does please me more to see that either she had a word with herself or someone else had a word with her at the half and she responded in such a positive fashion. Her workrate improved, she was winning balls, she was a more visible target on set pieces, she was taking players on - every single thing about her improved in the second half. She wound up having a nice outing, but that first half showed one thing - when CP is bad, sheís really really bad . . . when sheís good though, she manages to make up for it all. Still think the US needs another big girl on that roster though - after seeing Abby against Panama and how she brings an element to Team USA that no one else does, I have a feeling Abby wonít be left off of a whole lot more rosters. And yes, the only thing that really aggravates me about Abbyís dismissal because of whatever procedural issue there was, is that it looks like if sheíd been with the team for the Costa Rica match, we might have gotten to see CP and Abby out there together for a significant period of time . . . címon, how could that not be a good time . . .
Lilly - nice game - sheís another one who put a few too many balls 10 feet over the goal in this one. Her misses werenít quite as close as some of the others though so I didnít feel the pain of hers quite as much as Joyís and Julieís. Especially since ultimately she got her goal. Great crack from distance on her goal. Put it in at the top of the goal where there was no way the keeper was going to get to it. The rest of it was typical Lilly - sheís fine on the right - and sheís fine up top - it doesnít matter where you put Kristine Lilly, you know what youíre going to get - perpetual motion, nice chances for herself and others, nice service from the flank (although she didnít get many of those fetch it Lil balls on the right - Brandi put one out there when CP was wide left which had me laughing - another problem with all the rotating, theyíre faking out the defense - when you put a ball out for Lil and CPís the one wide left odds are that CP doesnít have a prayer in the world of getting there) and a strong and fearless defensive effort, she never backs away from those bigger than she is and unlike TR, she manages to challenge those folks without constantly fouling (something TR needs to work on - she has got to be able to challenge for the ball without the grabbing and fouling - if sheís not strong enough then either bulk up or cut it out and find another way - donít want to give Hege or Birgit those free kicks in the center of the field when crunch time comes in China) - just a consistent level of excellence from Ms. Lilly - itís always a pleasure. And since I dinged her last time, corners were looking awfully good again. Nice assist on what? CPís third goal? Great stuff.
Fair - nice cross on the own goal. Thatís about all Iíve got actually. She didnít make any mistakes on the defense, made some nice runs offensively, but not much else . . . I think sheís the one I might really have lost in this one so Iíll have to take a pass here.
Hucles - now, sheís the sub who made a difference. Very very active when she came in. She seems to be all about winning a spot on this team - or at the very least making cutting her very difficult. Yes, she needs to finish or at the very least get a little closer on all of those chances she gets, but that she puts herself into a position to get all those chances is great - especially since sheís playing in a part of the field that has been quite dead at times of late. Hucles never disappears out there, sheís always working hard and doing something. Sheís had a lot of near misses this tournament so I was happy she finally got her goal in this one. The goal started with some nice second half work by CP to put that ball in the box, nice flick by Mac and Hucles was in position to put it home. Sheís very active in the box and makes some very nice and well timed runs. Strong outing - I imagine sheíll continue to stay in the mix and I think she can be a very solid bench player in the coming year.
Hamm - well, I imagine she saw time in this one so the nice folks in Seattle would get a look at her . . . maybe to get her a few minutes going into the final as well, since she didnít play in the last one. I really donít have anything - only in for the last 20 minutes and never seemed to really get in the flow.
And that is it. A bit shorter than usual, but we really didnít see a whole lot that was new in this one. And I was watching this sucker when it was very late - my attention span is not so hot at 11:30 at night after a long day at the real job. Fun game though - now that theyíve qualified and the pressure is off I expect to see a fast paced very loose game. Should be an exciting match against Canada - next oneís for bragging rights!
US v. Mexico Match Report
US v. T&T Match Report
US v. Panama Match Report
US v. Canada Match Report