In one of their final international friendlies before the World Cup, the Matildas were defeated 5-3 by world no.1 ranked side USA in Colorado.
Here are three things we learned from the match.
1. USA have their weak points
While some fans may focus on the five goals scored in yesterday’s result for the USA over the Matildas, it’s the three goals conceded that will be of most interest to opposition teams and analysts heading into the World Cup.
The USA looked confident and comfortable when they were in possession; creating attacking width, opening up Australia’s shaky back line, and recycling the ball across their own defensive players regularly.
However, when the hosts were caught out of possession and the Matildas counter-attacked, several red flags began to appear.
When Lisa De Vanna equalised for Australia in the 29th minute, a series of individual defensive errors by the USA made the goal all the more predictable.
- First, defensive midfielder Julie Ertz was caught out of position after pushing too far forward and slipping. This left Caitlin Foord, who was played as a #10 in yesterday’s friendly, all alone in the central channel with only the back four of the USA ahead of her.
- Second, while centre-back Abby Dahlkemper stepped to put pressure on Foord, right full-back Emily Sonnett—who is usually played as a centre-back for NWSL club Portland Thorns—instinctively stepped into the central channel to cover the space vacated by Dahlkemper. This decision to step inside rather than outside meant that Lisa De Vanna was left in acres of space down the left wing. Once Foord recognised that she had sucked in these two defenders, she released her pass down the left channel.
- The final error came from Sonnett once again who, instead of sprinting across to pressure De Vanna and throw herself in front of the incoming shot, hesitated and merely stuck out a leg, turning away from the ball. All De Vanna had to do was steady herself with a single touch and shoot hard and straight into the top right corner of the net.
A second major error came in the opening minutes of the second half, this time from Dahlkemper. When Foord picked the ball up in central midfield and charged at the USA defence, she had at least three players in front of her. However, with a bit of trickery, Foord was able to turn away from substitute Sam Mewis and take a step in-field.
Instead of moving forwards to make a tackle on Foord, Dahlkemper remained at a distance and tried to block, allowing Foord to get the ball onto her strong right foot and lash home the Matildas’ second of the game, having used Dahlkemper’s hesitation as a shield to keep Naeher unsighted before the ball was in the back of the net.
Their third and final major defensive error of the match came in the 80th minute. While substitute USA defender Tierna Davidson did well to pressure Matildas right-back Ellie Carpenter who’d made a charging run down the wing, fellow sub Christen Press was too easily sucked in to try and defend Carpenter.
As such, Press had left Matildas winger Hayley Raso in plenty of space and with enough time to send a pin-point cross onto the head of Sam Kerr for Australia’s third goal. Dahlkemper and full-back Crystal Dunn had lost track of each other and pulled too far apart, allowing Kerr the space to get in between them and power the ball past Naeher.
The USA have lacked defensive depth for a while, as question marks remain over the fitness of preferred right-back Kelly O’Hara. While veteran Ali Krieger was brought into camp for yesterday’s friendly, head coach Jill Ellis appears insistent on the Sonnett project.
The right side of the USA’s defensive line may be the weakest point, and one that teams will logically be looking to exploit the longer Ellis’ project takes to come to fruition.