2023 Women’s World Cup: 5 Takeaways from USWNT’s Draw With the Netherlands

2023 Women’s World Cup: 5 Takeaways from USWNT’s Draw With the Netherlands
Joe LoweryJuly 27, 2023

2023 Women’s World Cup: 5 Takeaways from USWNT’s Draw with the Netherlands

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    Lindsay Horan's powerful header was the USWNT's only goal on Wednesday.

    Lindsay Horan’s powerful header was the USWNT’s only goal on Wednesday.Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images

    Four years ago, the United States women’s national team took down the Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final. The two teams met again on a global stage Wednesday in New Zealand.

    Even after Dutch coach Andries Jonkers gave the United States bulletin-board material in the buildup to the meeting, this match ended in a 1-1 draw.

    Jeff Carlisle @JeffreyCarlisle

    The #uswnt is ready for its rematch against #NED. And Netherlands manager Andries Jonkers with some interesting quotes to my ESPN Netherlands colleagues ahead of the match. https://t.co/96PYEMF6Tz pic.twitter.com/GwmL36esix

    After the U.S. allowed zero shots in the opening game of their 2023 World Cup campaign, the clash with the Netherlands was always going to be a much trickier test for the Americans. The Netherlands, still a favorite along with the U.S. to emerge from Group E and break into the knockout rounds, has a talented squad and asked real questions of the USWNT, especially in the first half.

    Despite starting slowly, the United States put together a much stronger second half and secured a point.

    What did we learn from the U.S.’s latest World Cup performance? Let’s discuss.

Rose Lavelle Changed the Game

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    Rose Lavelle's presence in midfield changed the outlook of Wednesday's match.

    Rose Lavelle’s presence in midfield changed the outlook of Wednesday’s match.AP Photo/Alysa Rubin

    Many expected to see Rose Lavelle start against the Netherlands in place of Savannah DeMelo, who started against Vietnam a few days earlier. But coach Vlatko Andonovski had other ideas, starting DeMelo and exercising caution with Lavelle as she works her way back to full fitness after suffering an injury on national team duty back in April.

    DeMelo put in a reasonably effective performance in an advanced midfield role for the U.S., but Lavelle stole the show in the second half. She collected the game-tying assist with a lovely corner-kick delivery to Lindsey Horan (more on Horan, The Angry Set-Piece Menace momentarily).

    It wasn’t just set pieces that helped Lavelle stand out, though. She buzzed around the field in open play, too, creating turnovers, dancing through Dutch defenders and trying to maximize the USWNT’s possession. With Lavelle on the field, the United States out-shot the Netherlands 9-3 in the second half and wrested control from its Group E foes. It’s unfair to attribute all of that improvement to Lavelle, but she was bright.

    Paul Carr @PaulCarr

    🇺🇸 U.S. outshot Netherlands 9-3 in the second half.

    🇳🇱 All three Dutch second-half shots came in the 80th minute. pic.twitter.com/Iw36AFshP7

    Given that the U.S. struggled to string together cohesive attacking sequences without her, there’s no doubt that the best version of the USWNT includes Lavelle in midfield.

Don’t Make Lindsey Horan Mad

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    Lindsey Horan

    Lindsey HoranJose Hernandez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Just don’t do it.

    After taking a hit from Netherlands playmaker Daniëlle van de Donk midway through the second half, Lindsey Horan went supernova.

    Well, that’s not entirely true. First, she got angry. Then she and van de Donk got a talking-to in the box from the referee. And then she went supernova, scoring the United States’ only goal of the game with a thumping header in the 62nd minute.

    B/R Football @brfootball

    Lindsey Horan was upset following a tackle from her Lyon teammate Danielle van de Donk. Two minutes later she scored.

    Don’t make Horan angry 😤 pic.twitter.com/uEbBaN12cG

    Horan tallied against Vietnam after a lovely right-footed through ball from Sophia Smith last week. She played a few useful passes in this game, but against the Netherlands, she changed things with her head more than anything else.

    Starting her run from the middle of the box, Horan curled toward the right side to connect with Lavelle’s perfect in-swinging corner kick. The Netherlands, which opted for a zonal-marking approach that failed to apply any real pressure to Horan, was forced to watch as its lead vanished into the afternoon New Zealand sun.

    FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

    LINDSEY HORAN SENDS THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE 🇺🇸

    THE @USWNT HAS LEVELED IT 🤫 pic.twitter.com/IV7hnG4CyK

    Horan will continue to be an asset in these dead-ball situations throughout the World Cup. Future opponents would be wise to avoid poking the bear before those dead balls, though.

The US Failed to Control Midfield

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    Andi Sullivan and the USWNT had all sorts of difficulty establishing midfield control.

    Andi Sullivan and the USWNT had all sorts of difficulty establishing midfield control.Maja Hitij – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

    In the first half especially, the U.S. struggled to control the middle of the field against the Netherlands’ 3-5-2 shape.

    Horan, for all of her value on the ball, struggles to cover ground, leaving Andi Sullivan to do most of the defensive heavy-lifting. Unfortunately for the U.S., Sullivan couldn’t quite carry the team in the buildup to the Netherlands’ only goal of the game.

    Building out of their back three, the Dutch found a line-breaking pass into the left halfspace in the 17th minute. That pass was Sullivan’s cue to shift over and either win the ball or force the Netherlands back toward its goal. But Sullivan whiffed on her tackle attempt, freeing the Dutch to burst forward into the box.

    FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

    One touch, one strike, one lead for the Netherlands 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/ExXulFcJoQ

    A few things still needed to go wrong for the U.S. for the buildup to turn into a goal. But, as you can see up above, those things all did go wrong.

    Because the U.S. doesn’t want to be a possession-dominant team, it needs to be nearly 100 percent effective when defending in midfield. The Americans certainly didn’t hit that mark tonight, which could be a worrying sign for future matches.

The Attack Still Needs to Click

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    Alex Morgan worked hard but failed to hit the back of the net.

    Alex Morgan worked hard but failed to hit the back of the net.Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images

    Even though the Netherlands broke through much earlier than the United States, the U.S. still had the edge in terms of first-half chances.

    However, that edge was very slight.

    As you can see in the shot map from the first 45 minutes, the USWNT failed to create any clear-cut opportunities and settled for a few more shots from long distances than Andonovski would’ve liked.

    Paul Carr @PaulCarr

    🤷‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/n6vBabXsJB

    After the full 90 minutes, the chances skewed a little more heavily in the U.S.’s favor, but it still only created 1.34 expected goals and one actual goal. What does that tell us? Well, it tells us that the United States has some work to do in the final third.

    Andonovski stuck with the same starting lineup that put three goals past Vietnam on Friday evening, but against a more talented team, chances were harder to come by.

    Paul Carr @PaulCarr

    🇺🇸 U.S. outshot Netherlands 9-3 in the second half.

    🇳🇱 All three Dutch second-half shots came in the 80th minute. pic.twitter.com/Iw36AFshP7

    Getting Lavelle on the field from the start of a match will surely help the U.S. find more attacking joy. Hopefully, more reps from the Sophia Smith-Alex Morgan-Trinity Rodman front three will help, too.

Andonovski Has His Go-to Center Back Pairing

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    Julie Ertz has settled in as one of the USWNT's central defenders.

    Julie Ertz has settled in as one of the USWNT’s central defenders.Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images

    Few expected it when the USWNT’s roster was released ahead of this tournament, but here we are: Julie Ertz is Naomi Girma’s go-to center back partner.

    Andonovski has used Ertz, not Alana Cook, as Girma’s center back partner in both of the U.S.’s World Cup games so far—and she had some big moments in this one against the Netherlands. Maybe the most important one was a key block on a Dutch shot late in the second half that potentially salvaged a point for the USWNT.

    Using Ertz as a center back and not a No. 6, which is where she played against Ireland in her return to the national team picture earlier this year, clearly has value. Her defensive timing is a major upgrade over Cook and her passing range is a slight improvement, too.

    However, with Ertz defending as a center back, the U.S. loses her mettle in midfield. If Ertz, not Sullivan, had closed down the Dutch in the 17th minute, it’s possible that the U.S. would’ve escaped the first half unscathed.

    Regardless of the wisdom of Andonovski’s decision, one thing is clear: Ertz and Girma are the starting duo for the foreseeable future.

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