US runs over Haiti 6-0, Clinch top spot of CONCACAF Group A


USWNT vs China PR Apr. 6th 2014-69

USA Women Clinch Top of Group A, with clean sweep and dispatch of Haiti 6-0 Monday night.  Steve Long provides a look ahead towards the CONCACAF Championship medal rounds, in Philly this weekend.

By Steve Long – It wasn’t about the score or who got the goals.  It was all about testing how best to break down a bunker.  Against a clearly overmatched Haiti team, Coach Jill Ellis asked her players to attack almost exclusively down the wings for the first half, allowing a bit more central attacking in the second half.

The theory is that wing attacks will spread the field and cut down on the density of the bunker.  More space should open up centrally when more bodies must be dispatched to contain the wings.  However, a disciplined opponent will counter by shifting the entire team toward the side attacked.

In response, the attacking team will switch play very quickly in order to exploit the opposite wing which is briefly less crowded.  In the men’s game, the one-time long cross to the opposing wing is fairly common since it leaves little time for the defense to close the space.

Among women, the tactic is more often to swing the ball centrally and then to the opposite side, too often allowing the opponent to simply swing players with the flow.  The defense’s task is simplified, but the tactic will still wear down the defense over time as the ball does the work.

In the second half, Ellis allowed her players more freedom randomly to stop the swing and attack the center more often, taking advantage of a defense which was by then not only tiring physically, but also mentally.  The Haitian players struggled to maintain form and fresh US legs were then able to more easily break them down.

With an abundance of attacking talent, the US naturally tends to seek the quick strike as soon as possession is obtained.  Against stronger opponents, this approach makes it difficult to establish the rhythm that possession under pressure requires.

During the Pia Sundhage era, the team was encouraged to go with their attacking strength and seek the quick strike.  As the top teams in the world gain sophistication, Ellis will need to develop a more complete strategy if the team is to match their midfield strength.

Current national team midfielders are very skilled, but more in attacking than in delaying, holding, and controlling.  Ellis will need to develop or find at least two players in the more classical mode of creative midfielder.

On defense, the team remains very strong.  Christie Rampone continues to perform superbly, but is aging.  Fortunately, Becky Sauerbrunn continues to grow in central defense to support her.  Ali Krieger has taken over the right side and Kelley O’Hara and Meghan Klingenberg bring speed and increasing savvy to the left.

Waiting in the wings from the U-20s are Cari Roccaro and Rose Lavelle, who show promise as good readers of the game who combine well with teammates.  Neither is likely to make the final World Cup squad, since they lack the exposure of NWSL play on a consistent basis, but either might pressure existing national team starters for playing time in the buildup to Canada.

The remaining qualifying games will provide a bit more of a test for the US, but not nearly as much as they will face in Brazil in December and Canada in 2015.  If Mexico chooses to contest over the entire field, we may see just how flexible the Jill Ellis version might be.



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