Last night after the game my mother asked me why I was so angry even though we had won the game. I had to think about it for a second.
The short answer is simply that the United States isn’t playing like the team that has been a dominating force in the women’s game for the past decade.
The longer answer is explained very well by watching that game against Colombia last night. Yes, the game ended with two U.S. goals. But those goals weren’t scored by us. They were practically handed to us on a silver platter by Colombia, who played a dirty game. Alex Morgan did have a good game, and I think since she’s been back that our attack has improved exponentially. But I’m very doubtful that had Catalina Perez stayed in goal for Colombia, Morgan’s goal probably wouldn’t have been a goal. The Colombian goalkeeper who came in after that red card (which I’m not so sure was a red card, but that’s another story) DID get a hand on that ball. Not a strong one, but still a hand. Perez was having a great game before that, and she probably would have made that save. Our second goal? A penalty given to us once again for Colombia’s dirty play. The United States created minimal chances on goal ourselves.
Like Carli Lloyd said in her post-game interview, the first half we had against Colombia was probably the best first half we played all tournament. It felt like Cheney and Carli were finally working together to connect our backline and our forwards and they were feeding some okay balls forward and out to our wingers. But there’s no doubt that the main problem for the U.S. is finding a midfield/forward line combination that flows and connect and are a real attacking force. Part of the problem is that many players in this part of the field just seem sluggish, are making poor passes, and are just not playing well. A majority of the problem is Jill Ellis and her inability to observe the game and make positive influences on the field by 1. Coaching from the sideline. 2. Taking some of the talent we have on the bench and putting it to use on the field. She is insisting on a tactical plan that simply doesn’t work, and in order to somehow make up for her tactical flaws, plays players in positions that they don’t naturally play in and don’t perform well in. The midfield/forward lines, with the exception of a few players, aren’t performing at a World cup winning level.
While Rapinoe and Holiday’s yellow cards give Ellis a chance to make some changes in the line-up, it’s doubtful that she’ll put in anyone other than Morgan Brian and play Christen Press out of position once again, leaving impact players like Heather O'Reilly and Kelley O'Hara on the bench.
I will say that the only thing keeping the U.S. in the tournament right now is our backline. Those back 4 and Hope Solo have been simply phenomenal this whole tournament and have saved us more than once. Christie Rampone has said that, “If we score, we might win. If they never score, we can’t lose.” Which is true to a point. But with a front that isn’t producing any goals, keeping the other team out of our net will result in a 0-0 draw every time. And in this tournament, draws go to penalty kicks. And even with Hope Solo in the net, there’s no way we can win every one.