Thoughts on the USWNT vs New Zealand

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Monica Esenwein shares our thoughts about the USWNT’s 2-0 win over New Zealand in their Olympic opener. 


RJ Allen:

What did you think of the starting XI for the US? 

Monica Esenwein:

It was interesting not to see Horan and Dunn in there, but with Heath and Brian back it wasn’t a surprise.

RJ Allen:

I was surprised a little bit about Long over Horan.

Monica Esenwein:

That’s true, but Ellis really likes Long and I don’t see her dropping Brian back at this point to the holding mid.

RJ Allen:

Ali Riley and Kelley O’Hara going at it on the outside was a fun battle. They know each other well and they aren’t scared to go further than may be reasonable.

Monica Esenwein:

It was! I love when players know each other like that and can give each other everything they’ve got and battle it out.

RJ Allen:

The backline I think played pretty well. Even if Kling and Kelley were in the box more than Tobin and Pugh.

RJ Allen:

They did. They seemed more organized than the games leading up to the Olympics. Not sure if it’s due to playing it so much and adjusting or this was New Zealand and we just “looked good.” I’m hoping the first.

The USWNT out shot New Zealand 12 to 4. And had 6 SOG to New Zealand’s 1. Plus the US had 62% possession. Yet I never really felt we had it in the bag.

And goal differential matters. A lot. With the group we have.

Monica Esenwein:

I didn’t feel we had it locked down either. New Zealand is a dangerous team and if they were clicking, it could have been closer. The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the whole story either. It was a good game from both sides, but we have to play tighter against France.

We needed more goals for goal differential in this game, but 2 isn’t bad. Thankfully we’re not in Germany’s group and don’t have to deal with the 7-1 spanking they handed out today.

RJ Allen:

There seems to be something off with the team in terms of everyone being on the same page.

We had a lot of the possession, but a lot of it felt like we were giving the ball up because people didn’t have a plan or know what to do when they got the ball where they got it.

Monica Esenwein:

I think with Lloyd and Heath and Brian back in, it may take a game or two to reconnect. Like I said, we’ll need to be tighter against France. Unfortunately, we don’t have Colombia next, we have France, so we need to make sure our passes are on point or Henry will grab it and France will be off to the races.

RJ Allen:

Solo wasn’t tested much but I think her distribution game was pretty crisp.

And the line was behaving much better this game than in the past.

Monica Esenwein:

Solo looked great as usual, it’s kind of her thing. Arlo mentioned that she has been working on her distribution and that she feels it’s the best it’s ever been. That’s saying a lot, I’ve never felt that her distribution was a sore spot for her, the fact that it’s better and she feels that way, that can only mean good things for us.

The back line was much better indeed. Klingenberg seems more comfortable with Tobin on her flank and more willing to do her defensive duties. She was still in the offensive box a lot, but she’s also been told to be there, so yeah.  When Johnston pushed forward, Long slid back, so not to leave Sauerbrunn vulnerable, I think that helps a lot as well. (edited)

RJ Allen:

I will say this about Allie Long, she knows how a midfield works.

She might not be my favorite player but she’s a true midfielder.

Monica Esenwein:

She does and she works well with the defenders.

They don’t have to be your favorite, they just have to be better than the other team.

RJ Allen:

If Ellis is going to play a bunch of people out of position at least having her in there gives us some flexibility.

Monica Esenwein:

True, we know how much Ellis likes to play people out of position. I mean, sorry, she likes her players to be versatile.

RJ Allen:

Carli seems to be 100% back into form.

Monica Esenwein:

She is and the rest seemed to do her some good. I’m 31, and I know how hard it can be on our bodies, and they haven’t had much down time because of the tight turn around from World Cup to Olympics. The rest did its job and now we can hopefully watch her do hers.

RJ Allen:

Have to wonder though if she could have gotten a game or two in for the Dash.

Gotten some game time minutes to really be sure she was ready.

Monica Esenwein:

Honestly, I’m glad she didn’t. Too big of a risk, too close to “go time.” I understand the logic, but I think she did what was best for her and for Rio.

And now she can ride a high back into Houston and help them ride out their season.

RJ Allen:

I’m not a huge fan of players sitting for club because of a small risk they might be out for their NT.

Monica Esenwein:

I’m not either. I always get mad about it. But she isn’t 21 and if it was April, I’d say maybe, but it was June/July and she had to protect herself, the NWSL sure isn’t going to protect her.

RJ Allen:

Any final thoughts on the game?

Monica Esenwein:

We got the 3 points, which is always important. We should have scored more, goal differential wise, we needed to. We have got to have tighter passing against France. All in all, I ain’t mad about that Olympic start! Can’t be when Lloyd and Morgan score in the first game and that early into each half.

RJ Allen:

Prediction for USWNT vs France?

It will be tight, I say we pull it out 2-1. It will be a dogfight, make no mistake about that!

RJ Allen:

I’m going 2-0 US.