2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Preview: USA
Source: ussoccer.com

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Preview: USA

The reigning champions look to reassert their dominance in the women's game.

dzukai07
Kudzi Musarurwa

The United States of America come to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup as the reigning champions. In Group F, they will play ChileSweden and Thailand, and despite being the favourites, will know that Sweden will be their first potential banana skin before the knock out stages begin.

A high-powered offense has fired the U.S. to the World Cup

The U.S. has match-winners in their front three | Source: pbs.org
The U.S. has match-winners in their front three | Source: pbs.org

Alex Morgan is the tip of the USWNT's attack but it has been the play of Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath that has made the U.S. offense roll over team after team. Morgan has benefited from Heath and Rapinoe's creativity although her scoring has slowed down a little coming into the World Cup. Heath has added goals to her game and Rapinoe continues to defy expectations despite her age and dominate games. If the USWNT are to go far in this tournament, it will be on the back of Heath and Rapinoe's play.

The USWNT also have a bench that can provide goals late in the game when teams start to tire. Carli Lloyd is now a forward, moving a little higher up the field since her exploits four years ago, Christen Press is still a clinical finisher and Mallory Pugh is beginning to find her form again. The USWNT can outscore most teams and will look to do so in France as they fight to retain their title.

A change in tactics has left the U.S. vulnerable at the back

The backline for the USWNT has been shaky for some time | Source: Chris Szagola-AP
The backline for the USWNT has been shaky for some time | Source: Chris Szagola-AP

The USWNT defense has not been the same since they bowed out of the Rio 2016 Olympics at the quarter final stage. Since then, stalwart Hope Solo was removed from the team and many of the backline that helped the U.S. reach the World Cup final four years ago are either not on the team, playing in a different position or not starting. Head coach Jill Ellis has emphasized attacking play and it has left the defense vulnerable to any team that can put together a few passes on the break.

The backline that was so impressive four years ago has only retained Becky Sauerbrunn but there is only so much one player can do. Behind Sauerbrunn is now Alyssa Naeher who despite being Ellis' number one goalkeeper, still does not inspire confidence. Alongside Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper has been exposed against the better teams and both Kelley O'Hara and Crystal Dunn have been instructed to play high up the field, leaving the flanks exposed. These players are better than they have shown over the last few years but Ellis' insistence of pushing her fullbacks high up the field has burned the U.S. on more than one occasion against the top teams. Ellis has not shown any indication to change her tactics so the U.S. will have to see if they can outscore their opponents all the way to another world title or if they will falter because of a exposed backline.

Roster

Goalkeepers: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Adrianna Franch.

Defenders: Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O'Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Ali Krieger, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn.

Midfielders: Sam Mewis, Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Allie Long, Mallory Pugh.

Forwards:​​​​​​​ Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Jessica McDonald, Christen Press.

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