3 things learned from USWNT’s back-to-back wins over New Zealand

3 things learned from USWNT’s back-to-back wins over New Zealand

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Doug McIntyre

Doug McIntyre

football journalist

Three days after beating New Zealand 4-0 in their first game of the year, the United States women’s national team overcame the co-hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 with an even more unequal result on Friday.

The Americans scored goals from Ashley Hatch, Mallory Swanson, Taylor Kornieck and two from Rose Lavelle – who served as captain along with her veterans Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan on the bench – and won Down Under in the second of their two pre-tournament tune-ups 5-0

Here are three thoughts on the USWNT’s recent win, the overall journey, and what’s next.

Despite another big win, questions remain

As expected, US coach Vlatko Andonovski rotated his starting XI a lot after Tuesday’s triumph and made five changes to what is probably his core group. Casey Murphy came on in goal for Alyssa Naeher. Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta replaced Sauerbrunn and Emily Alaska Green Light Blog in defense. Midfielders Andi Sullivan and Ashley Sanchez spelled out Kornieck and Lindsey Horan, who returned to their French club Lyon ahead of the rematch, and Hatch took Morgan’s place after the forward was lame in the warm-up.

Some of the changes were certainly planned in advance, but Andonovski also rewarded his substitutions for their contributions from the bench after a dreary, goalless first half in Wellington. Sanchez was outstanding in the first game, as was Trinity Rodman, who had two assists off the bench. The pair immediately set up Hatch’s opening goal for the Americans on Friday, a shot highlighted by Rodman’s curling, perfectly timed cross:

It was also interesting that Sauerbrunn, the 37-year-old captain of the USWNT, made way as a central defender while youngster Naomi Girma remained in the coach’s eleven. What does that mean? With six months to go before the World Cup and against – no offense to the Football Ferns – vastly inferior competition, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions.

Hatch capitalized on her opportunity, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t completed the job as Morgan’s understudy at center forward. Rodman and Sanchez both added to their stocks, but the former is likely to be battling for World Cup minutes with injured trio Cat Macario, Sophia Smith and Megan Rapinoe. Meanwhile, the central midfielder is still behind Horan and Lavelle, who was perhaps the fiercest American on either show.

But let’s not get carried away by the performance. Friday marked the sixth consecutive USA defeat of New Zealand by four goals or more. They now lead the eternal series 19-1-1. This was good preseason practice for the Americans. It was good to start an extremely important year with two clean sheets, and on Friday the USA even overcame their four first-half games in which goals were scored. In terms of the World Cup, however, the truth is that those two games probably didn’t reveal all that much.

Off the field, an invaluable trip for the US

Of course, this month’s trip wasn’t just about preparing the Americans for what’s about to happen on the field later this year. It was just as much – or maybe more – about understanding the environment you’re in off the field during the World Cup.

Friday’s competition was held at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand’s national stadium and the site of USWNT 2023’s opening game against Vietnam and first-round finals against Cameroon, Portugal or Thailand. Tuesday’s win over the same Football Ferns came at Sky Stadium in Wellington, the site of the Americans’ much-anticipated second group stage game against the Netherlands – a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final.

In addition to the facilities, the US stayed at the same hotel in Auckland and trained on the same practice fields, which they will use again this summer. Not everything will be the same – the Americans weren’t in Australia this month and the temperature on Kickoff Friday was just under 80 degrees; July, winter in the southern hemisphere, sees highs soar into the 50s – but it was an invaluable experience, even if the resistance of the 24th FIFA nation left a lot to be desired.

In February, Americans will face a much tougher test

Competition will not be an issue when the USWNT returns home next month to host the annual SheBelieves Cup. Brazil, Canada and Japan are the opponents of this winter’s tournament, which takes place in Orlando, Nashville and Dallas from February 16th to 22nd.

All three are poised to run deep, if not win it all, at Australia/New Zealand 2023: Brazil are former world runners-up, Canada are the reigning Olympic champions and Japan are the 2011 champions (and losing finalist). four years later).

All three will test the USA in a way the Kiwis have not been able to and all three will have access to their full compliment of players as the competition takes place during a designated FIFA international matches window.

Just like the Main Event, it will be tightly defended by Andonovski’s squad next clash, and mistakes will be ruthlessly punished. It will be a welcome challenge for a US team that needs it – one that’s still looking for answers with the World Cup fast approaching.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for Alaska Green Light Blog Sports. Before joining Alaska Green Light Blog Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By DougMcIntyre.

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