So you started off your SheBelieves Cup having the weaknesses of your high press exposed. If you’re Vlatko Andnovoski, that’s a fantastic thing because that’s the whole point of this tournament before the Olympics: figure out the problems, tweak the tactics, test the personnel. Andonovski had this to say in a press call before the game against Brazil:
In terms of Canada, something that jumps out is the lack of [our] execution. I mean, lack of finishing. We went through everything that we wanted to do. And I felt like we executed our principles very well, we were able to create 28 shots, 27 crosses in open play. So we created six goalscoring opportunities off of the process, we created the other seven or eight opportunities in open play that we could have scored a shot, but we didn’t. Yes, it was disappointing, maybe at the moment, but we got to know that these players are in the offseason still… They haven’t had touches with their teams. they haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis. And once that all comes into play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come pretty soon.
And now he’s got Brazil to further break down his plans, and if he wanted someone to put pressure on his midfield in particular, he couldn’t have asked for a better suited team.
Brazil is coming into this game with a relatively confident 4-1 win over Argentina. And as one might expect, Marta and Debinha both did plenty of heavy lifting for their country, with Debinha often the architect of their attack.
We’re gonna have to solve their free flow in the middle. We know that Marta has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. Debinha, I said earlier, she has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. So there’s going to be problems and challenges that they’re going to present that will create for us, that we’ll have to overcome. And there is no certain pattern that we can say, okay, this is what they’re going to do every time.
On the US side, Andonovski will be looking for better challenges from his players and better connection with the ball. Perhaps we’ll have some starter rotation; it might be nice to see Christen Press start over Megan Rapinoe, who looked like she ran out of gas after about 30 minutes. Before the game, Press talked about complementing Crystal Dunn on the left and how Dunn winning her 1v1s both offensively and defensively frees Press to go forward, which the team needed against Canada.
It might also be nice to see more time for Alex Morgan. Morgan looked like you’d expect for a player who hasn’t had consistent time, a half-step off on her timing. But she looked dangerous nonetheless, and with more minutes to dig in, she could get a real confidence-boosting goal under her belt to get her fully back into the swing of things for the NT.
On the other side of the field, Andonvoski said that he wants Midge Purce to get used to right back. “With the national team, with her club team, if she has an opportunity to play there, that’s what she needs,” he said. “We could see in the game against Canada that she did an incredible job when she was in the attacking half or when we were in possession. I thought that she would help us advance forward, came up with some good crosses, combination with Lynn [Williams].” But Andonvoski also pointed out that one big difference in this game is that Purce will likely be pitted against Marta, making her lockdown ability much more crucial and an area in which he will be looking for growth from her.
As for that midfield test, Lindsey Horan will absolutely need to bring more of her second-half energy from the game against Canada and crisp up distribution while not getting frustrated and involved in rough fouls. Catarina Macario may also be asked to really help pressure her own left side of the pitch, either bypassing Marta or forcing her out of position to add to Brazil’s numbers there, leaving some space for Purce to operate.
Where Canada was slightly chaotic and plenty physical, the US will probably want this game to settle down a bit and rely more on good execution.
USA vs Brazil
Sunday, February 21
3 PM ET / 12 PM PT
Live on FS1 and TUDN