The highest scoring team in women’s soccer history was told to play defense on Tuesday. high-stakes players suddenly became as conservative as a politician from a red state.
for a us A team that has risen to the occasion in international championships, Tuesday’s goalless draw with Australia must have been as difficult to play as it was to watch.
but for coach vlatko andonovsky, who led a major tournament for the first time in his career, a draw was the entire united states team. he needed to get through to the knockout round of the tokyo olympic tournament. And seeing no need to get greedy, he played for it, backing his team in Friday’s quarterfinal in Yokohama against the Netherlands in what will be a rematch of the last Women’s World Cup final.
But just because Andonovski’s plan worked doesn’t mean it was successful. At the postgame news conference, as the coach praised his team for executing their unorthodox strategy, forward Alex Morgan, seated next to him, smiled.
“We came in with the mindset that the first goal was to win the game,” Andonovski said. “And the second goal was to put on a good professional performance and not concede goals. obviously we didn’t achieve the first objective, but we did achieve the second, which was very important because in the end it put us in the same place.”
maybe. But playing to a draw was out of the question for a team that hadn’t lost in Andonovski’s first 23 games as manager, but won just once in three games since coming to Japan.
was out of place for a team that had been averaging almost 3 ½ goals a game this year and hadn’t been shut out in over four years, but has gone scoreless twice in three games since arriving in tokyo.
On Tuesday they were shut out by a team that had won just once in seven games in 2021 and allowed less than two goals just twice. that was also out of line.
“They were a little passive in pressing,” said Australia coach Tony Gustavsson, an assistant to the 2015 and 2019 World Cup-winning American teams. “I’m used to seeing them very, very aggressive.”
instead, u.s.a. He was content to let Australia control the ball for almost 60 of the 90 minutes, outscoring them 10-8 and completing more passes than the Americans attempted.
as a result, u.s. (1-1-1) closed out the first round with just four points, the fewest he has won in the group stage of any world championship tournament. and finished second in their group for the first time in an Olympic tournament since the inaugural one in 1996.
the gold standard in olympic soccer after winning four of the first five tournaments, the us. he has won only one of his last five games in Olympics. It leaves them with a difficult path to the final, starting with the Netherlands, who have scored 21 times in their three group stage games in Japan. the United States. he hasn’t even taken 21 shots on goal in the tournament.
“You can’t think about future games without thinking about the next game,” Morgan said. “So for us, it’s looking at the next few games and seeing who we’re going to be up against. and then after that it’s, you know, how vlatko wants us to play against that team.
“We have enough experience and professionalism to be able to do it. we’ll wait for that now. Obviously, we must also take advantage of this momentum.”
but the us It really has no momentum after two lackluster, error-ridden efforts in seven days surrounding a win over New Zealand in a game that was close until the last 10 minutes.
Tuesday’s match in Kashima, just over an hour from Tokyo, was the first for the US. uu. has played before fans with several dozen children, dressed in school uniforms and fancy tracksuits, sitting behind a goal waving small American flags.
“It was wonderful to have some fans, to have somebody, in the stands clapping and cheering a little bit,” Morgan said. “It is a challenge to play in front of an empty stadium. so it was a nice surprise for us.”
morgan gave them something to cheer about in the 31st minute, jumping headfirst into a cross from kelley o’hara. But he was ruled offside, confirmed a call referee Anastasia Pustovoitova after consulting with video assistant referee Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb.
Australia’s best chance came in the 17th minute when Mary Fowler’s header from the center of the box cleared an outstretched hand from U.S. goalkeeper alyssa naeher bounced off the crossbar.
Australia was in the forefront all night while the us. She continued to shoot herself in the foot, holding back when she should have been pushing forward.
“It seemed like we were in control a lot of the time,” Gustavsson said. “with and without the ball. we had a lot of dangerous plays in the first half.
“at the end of the match, maybe the draw was fair.”
andonovski certainly thought so. but it’s probably best not to poll the rest of the people in his locker room.