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Tuesday Cannon Fodder: media blackout

South London Weather Skyline Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

Good morning, TSFers. Today’s CF is delayed because I was on a complete media blackout this morning until I finished watching the U.S. vs. Portugal match. I didn’t want to open my computer for fear of a random email or webpage loading and spoiling the result. I was successful in my efforts.

But I almost had my morning spoiled anyway because the USWNT looked disjointed and mostly poor against Portugal. It’s tough to say what the biggest issue with the team is right now because there are so many. But if I had to pick one thing, it’s that they don’t play like a team. They don’t move and pass in combination in possession. They don’t press and defend as unit when they don’t have the ball. Instead, they seem reliant on an individual moment of brilliance to create anything.

The forward line doesn’t work. Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan, and whoever is on the other side are too similar in how they want to attack. All three move well, make good runs, and want to get in behind. You need someone in the middle of the park, whether that’s your CF or one of the wingers tucking in, who will check back for the ball, provide an outlet for the midfielders, and distribute the ball to the other attackers running beyond.

Behind the forwards, the US desperately lacks a controlling presence in the midfield. Both Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle are fantastic, creative players, capable of opening up a defense with a pass or a surging run. But there isn’t a workhorse, ball-winning, tempo-setting player with them. There is nobody to win the ball and get it to the talented players further up the pitch. The center of the park is unoccupied far too often.

Moving to the back line, the U.S. gets very little support up the pitch from the fullbacks. Part of that is because the wide attackers stay wide, limiting the space into which the fullbacks can run. Neither Crystal Dunn nor Emily Fox look apt to underlap / play in the interior channel. The centerbacks, Naomi Girma in particular, have looked the best part of the USWNT. Alyssa Naeher has looked shaky in goal, flapping at far too many aerial balls.

The USWNT needs significant changes. Whether that is best accomplished tweaking the formation, changing the personnel, or just working hard on building cohesion in training is an open question. They play again Sunday and if they don’t play much better than they did in the group stage, they’ll be on an early plane home.

And because there wasn’t another place to fit this in — Megan Rapinoe was dreadful off the bench today, so poor that I would be hesitant to bring her on again.