Sports Morgan stars as USWNT bounce back with emphatic victory over weakened France
Morgan, Lavelle and the winners and losers from the USWNT's friendlies
The U.S. got a win and draw on their European trip, with some players rising and others falling as the Olympics move closerThe team was tested in its first match, recording a 1-1 draw against Scandinavian opponents, before recording a 2-0 win over France four days later.
The U.S. women’s national team returned to the site of their most recent defeat on Tuesday, playing France in Le Havre for the first time since a 3-1 loss in January 2019.
It was clear pretty early in Tuesday’s match that we wouldn’t be heading for a repeat.
Megan Rapinoe scored a penalty in the fifth minute – her second straight match with a goal from the spot – before Alex Morgan added a second just 15 minutes later.
From there, a France squad weakened by Covid-19 absences didn’t ever look like making it a real contest, as the USWNT cruised to a 2-0 win.
For the USWNT it is now 39 games unbeaten, while Vlatko Andonovski has 16 wins and one draw as the team’s head coach.
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USWNT responds after lackluster Sweden display
It was clear the U.S. was not happy with the way they played against Sweden on Saturday. Andonovski said the performance was “not good enough”, after a questionable late penalty call bailed his team out in a 1-1 draw.
Andonovski's message was undoubtedly absorbed by his players, who looked much improved against an admittedly weakened French side on Tuesday.
“It was a great test for us to see how quickly we could bounce back,” Andonovski said after the game. “I think we executed very well.
“I said we were not patient enough and not clean enough in the last game, and in this game we did a pretty good job.”
The USWNT was particularly strong out of the gate and had a two-goal advantage before the game was 20 minutes old. That appeared to demoralize their opponents, who seemed to be second to most 50/50 balls while only managing one shot on target all game.
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After drawing against Sweden on Saturday, the U.S. women's national soccer team faces another strong opponent Tuesday when it plays France.The USWNT haven't lost a match since January 2019, when it was defeated by France, 3-1. Later that year, however, the USWNT defeated France in the World Cup quarterfinals in Paris.
Morgan rounding into form at the right time
Alex Morgan has been sidelined for a large chunk of the past two years but as the Olympics appear on the horizon, she appears to be finding her best form at the perfect moment for the USWNT.
Andonovski has brought his star striker along slowly in 2021 as she’s been forced to recover from a lingering knee injury and a bout with Covid-19 – following on, of course, from an extended period out due to pregnancy and childbirth.
“Very happy with her attitude and mentality,” Andonovski said of Morgan. “She came in as a sub in previous games and was very good for us, she gave us a spark."
Tuesday was just Morgan’s second start of the year but she responded from the jump, winning an early penalty that Rapinoe converted in the fifth minute.
Just 15 minutes later, she got on the scoresheet with a pinpoint low finish after a lovely disguised pass from Christen Press. Morgan now has two goals in her last three USWNT appearances.
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The USWNT is renowned for their depth but Morgan is still a no-question starter at striker due to her combination of hold-up play and scoring ability. Against Sweden and France, she showed the ability to do both at a high level.
"Today as a starter I think she executed her role very well," Andonovski added. "Besides her impact with an assist and a goal, she was also very involved in our build-up. She was able to hold the ball and bring the midfielders into the game and release pressure for us."
The 'big four' midfielders play together
The U.S. has had a 'problem' in recent years: the team has four world-class central midfielders and just three places in which to play them.
Julie Ertz will always be in the team’s lineup at holding midfield, so that leaves two spots for Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis. In the second half against France, though, Andonovski found a way to play all four together.
Lavelle has been playing in a wide role at Manchester City and though she is naturally a central playmaker, Andonovski moved her to a wide forward spot in the second half, leaving the other three to occupy the midfield.
“All four of them are incredible players,” Andonovski said. “You want to figure out how to have all of the best players on the field at the same time.
“I thought this was a great opportunity for us to try things against a very good team, to have all four of them.”
Lavelle looked lively on the flank, switching from the right side to the left at times as the U.S. looked for a third goal. Though she’s best at a No.10, her versatility will be key on an 18-player Olympic roster.
“She had a very free role, to overload the midfield and create four-v-threes in the middle part of the field,” Andonovski added on Lavelle.
“I think she did well, she got involved enough but it still needs a little bit of work, but I was just happy to see all four of them on the field.”
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