Thoughts on USWNT vs France

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RJ Allen:

I’m RJ Allen, Editor in Chief of Backline Soccer. I’m here with Chelsey Bush, Managing Editor of Backline Soccer, and Backline Soccer writer Monica Esenwein. We’re talking about the group stage game between the USWNT and France.

First up ladies, what did you think of the starting XI’s?

Monica Esenwein:

I was a little shocked to see Engen in there, not realizing JJ took a knock. Figured Pugh would start and test the knock, but thought Dunn would make an appearance. Glad she got the nod to start.

Chelsey Bush:

I hadn’t heard about Johnston getting an injury, so Engen was a nice surprise. Otherwise, it was what I expected.

RJ Allen:

I was in my car playing the game audio. I was about 5 minutes in, and I heard them say Engen’s name. It took a good 60 seconds for that to sink in.

Chelsey Bush:

I was really happy. She’s underrated.

RJ Allen:

France seemed to attack directly at Klingenberg and Engen in the first half.

Monica Esenwein:

They did their homework. Klingenberg has been weak recently, and with the new partnership on that side, that’s the side to attack and test.

RJ Allen:

One thing I will say, even if I don’t want to, is that if Krieger is going to be a sub she needs to work on her mental game.

When she came on later in the game she didn’t seem to be able to step into a game in progress and fill in the gaps.

Monica Esenwein:

She didn’t play her best game—not by far. I thought for sure that ball was an OG, and my heart sank for more than one reason.

Chelsey Bush:

Yeah, she’s been a starter for so long that she needs to switch her mindset. There is no time to settle in. That’s why not everyone can make an impact off the bench the way they can as a starter.

RJ Allen:

Who impressed you guys the most today?

Monica Esenwein:

Hope Solo.

Chelsey Bush:

Hope Solo for sure.

Monica Esenwein:

And Renard for the French.

Chelsey Bush:

That’s classic Hope.

Not too many other shining performances from the U.S.

Monica Esenwein:

That was just Hope being Hope.

RJ Allen:

Allie Long was named as the US’s PotM.

Monica Esenwein:

Hope should have been PotM, the fact that she wasn’t is laughable.

Hope is the reason we won that game.

Chelsey Bush:

Hope won the game.

Monica Esenwein:

Even so, causing the goal, without Hope, we’re down 4 goals before we score that one.

RJ Allen:

Who didn’t impress you as much for the US this game?

Chelsey Bush:

The entire defense, minus Hope.

Monica Esenwein:

Is the whole team an answer?

Minus Hope.

RJ Allen:

Even Broon was off this game in a non-typical way.

Monica Esenwein:

Even the subs didn’t do much.

Chelsey Bush:

All five defenders in this game had poor moments.

Monica Esenwein:

For a game that we should have been fully on for, we looked like we were playing a CONCACAF team.

That wasn’t Canada or Mexico.

Chelsey Bush:

The outside backs were getting beaten, and the back line as a whole allowed France to stretch them & get behind them.

Monica Esenwein:

It was one of the sloppiest games I’ve seen them play in a while. Even just from last game, big contrast.

RJ Allen:

I am really over the 3 person Lloyd/Long/Brian midfield.

Brian needs to be pushed back into the DMid roll if they are going to keep playing it.

Monica Esenwein:

It doesn’t work if one or more are absent for a game.

Chelsey Bush:

It’s not really working. Long is not a proper DM.

Monica Esenwein:

I’d rather them move Johnston to DM—she already gets forward anyhow.

RJ Allen:

Chelsey, as the Dasher here, I have to ask you something.

Is Morgan Brian a player without a position? She seams to be moved all around the center of the field and can’t quite get her mindset to match. For both the Dash and the NT.

Chelsey Bush:

Because people want to return her to her college role of attacking midfielder instead of accepting that at this level she’s the best DM we have, yes.

RJ Allen:

So in your mind we should have it as Brian-Long-Lloyd?

Chelsey Bush:

To be honest, Long has not impressed me much since her 2016 debut.

But Horan hasn’t either.

RJ Allen:

Sandra isn’t here but I can still hear her calling the name of two very good center mids from Chicago to be called up.

Monica Esenwein:

I’d rather see Mewis over Long at this point.

RJ Allen:

Sadly, Mewis isn’t an option.

Monica Esenwein:

I know.

Chelsey Bush:

I’m a big Mewis fan, as well.

But yes, with who they have, Brian dropping back, Horan/Long in the middle; Lloyd pushing up.

RJ Allen:

I know, overall, she didn’t have a great game, but I thought Dunn and O’Hara played alright together.

At least didn’t get in each other’s way too much.

Chelsey Bush:

They’re okay. I don’t see great chemistry between them, and I didn’t think Dunn had her best game.

Although I’m not sure Pugh would have either. I suspect she would have been frazzled.

Monica Esenwein:

They didn’t show much chemistry at all. But this game was off to begin with, so I’m not sure if it was them not having chemistry or the team just not playing well as a whole.

I agree. I don’t know that Pugh would have done better.

Chelsey Bush:

Should we beat the dead horse with what we all know is a better option?

RJ Allen:

I would leave Kling in if we could use Krieger and O’Hara on the right together.

Chelsey Bush:

Exactly.

Monica Esenwein:

If we start with those two on the same side, it’s a different game.

Chelsey Bush:

Despite neither having a great game tonight, it plays well to both of their strengths.

Monica Esenwein:

And O’Hara at the end had played 3 positions tonight. That was ridiculous.

Chelsey Bush:

Relieves O’Hara of some of the defensive responsibilities she struggles with and allows her to get into the attack, where she shines. She and Krieger also had great overlapping runs during the WC quarterfinal.

Monica Esenwein:

Exactly. They play well off of each other, so why this has never been an option, I’m baffled.

I mean, it’s not like we have a conflict with wingers. Rapinoe clearly isn’t playing anytime soon.

RJ Allen:

But that would mean that Ellis couldn’t have Dunn/Pugh on the pitch.

Monica Esenwein:

This is true. So then we have a lack of chemistry on the side, so we can play players out of position—I mean, make them become more “versatile”.

RJ Allen:

I will note that O’Hara played three positions this game: right back, then right wing, and then left back.

Monica Esenwein:

And you can’t do that to a player! I don’t care how many positions they can play.

Chelsey Bush:

On the one hand, I want to give kudos to her for giving Ellis the confidence in her to do that.

On the other, I think it’s a poor coaching choice. You’re forcing a player to adjust themselves not once but twice to different responsibilities, different opponents, and different partners around them.

Monica Esenwein:

It’s one thing to slide them from left to right, but switching their positions totally? That’s a whole different mindset you have to be in for each position.

Monica Esenwein: 

Agreed. It’s not smart, even if the player is capable of playing that many positions.

RJ Allen:

What did you think of the forwards this game?

Morgan didn’t touch the ball nearly enough for my taste.

Monica Esenwein:

We had forwards out there?

Chelsey Bush:

Morgan was left isolated far too often.

Monica Esenwein:

Kudos to France for making sure Morgan got no help and no one could get her the ball.

We couldn’t even get a long ball to her.

RJ Allen:

Dunn needs a new role.

She needs to be more central.

Monica Esenwein:

That won’t happen.

I’d love to see it. I think with her speed, it would be great. But Alex Morgan is central and Ellis won’t, nor should she, take Morgan out or move her.

And we all know, we do not put Lloyd on the wing. No one wins in that situation.

RJ Allen:

I would offer that Dunn would be a great last 25 minute sub this Olympics. For Morgan.

Monica Esenwein:

That would be great. With her speed, towards the end of a game, that could be a difference maker for sure. Would Ellis do it? I wish I knew.

RJ Allen:

Does Ellis have any idea what to do with Press at all?

Monica Esenwein:

No.

Chelsey Bush:

The problem with Press is that her role is taken: Alex Morgan.

Monica Esenwein:

Exactly.

Chelsey Bush:

She’s not a wide player, and she’s not a midfielder. She’s a central forward.

Monica Esenwein:

She’s too good at it, not to be a central forward.

RJ Allen:

So Dunn and Press are both Alex Morgan types, and since we have the original Alex Morgan, they are stuck in roles they are not made or suited for?

Awesome.

Chelsey Bush:

Since Ellis has moved away from a 4-4-2 to more of a 4-3-3(ish), it exposes Press’ weaknesses on the flank.

Monica Esenwein:

For most teams (and usually for us), this is a great problem to have. But when we have games like this, it makes it harder to see where we can make changes to find a fire and spark. With the system Ellis is playing, it seems like it hurts more of our players than it helps.

Plays to some players’ strengths and shows the weaknesses of others.

RJ Allen:

The US had only 3 shots on goal today. But it was enough. This time. If we face France again do you think we’ll be able to beat them again?

Monica Esenwein:

Not if we play like this.

If we play like we did against New Zealand, where we showed some urgency or desire, yeah, I believe we could pull it out. We can’t play this dead against teams like this and expect to get by.

Luckily, France was not on tonight and Hope Solo was.

Chelsey Bush:

It comes down to what France does, too. They had chances they should have put away, and they took their foot off the gas in the second half.

It’s the problem France always has.

Monica Esenwein:

Both teams didn’t have their best games, at all. We just happened to get one by their keeper. This game could have just as easily ended in a draw.

RJ Allen:

What is scarier to you: Canada, Australia or Germany in the first knockout round?

Chelsey Bush:

Australia.

Monica Esenwein:

A pissed of German squad is never good. Canada will still be thinking about 2012. We may be best off against Australia, with the way they’ve been playing.

But De Vanna. I like her to show up big for the Aussies, and Williams too.

Chelsey Bush:

They’d be coming off an easy final group stage match against Zimbabwe so some players will be rested.

Monica Esenwein:

We’d be better off playing against anyone but Australia. If this is their catalyst game, it could be ugly from here on out, whoever they play.

RJ Allen:

Any final thoughts?

Monica Esenwein:

We need to be better. But, if this is anything like last summer, it’s not how we start, it’s how we finish. Hopefully we can repeat that momentum and peak at the right moments.

Chelsey Bush:

I do have some concerns. There are quite a few minor injuries floating around on a small roster, and if this is how the defense is going to play against strong teams, we’re certainly not having a repeat of the Department of Defense. But like Monica said, it’s a matter of peaking at the right moment. Hopefully Ellis makes some adjustments.

RJ Allen:

Final question: It is an issue for you neither Johnston or Rapinoe dressed for this game.

Monica Esenwein:

Not so much Johnston. If she’s nursing an injury, no matter how minor, best not to dress her. But Rapinoe, oh look, it’s shiny.

Chelsey Bush:

Not Johnston. I think you want her in later games, and better to give Engen some minutes when it’s not a knockout game just in case Johnston is out for good. And I don’t expect Rapinoe to play during the group stage, and when she finally does I don’t expect her to accomplish anything, so I don’t care.

Catch us next Tuesday for our thoughts on the last group stage game, USWNT vs Colombia. And then check out The Scouting Report on August 10th at 8 pm for our full group stage recap.

Note: We originally listed Tobin Heath as the Player of the Match. We have updated it to Allie Long.