It was a highly anticipated game in Group E as a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between the USWNT and the Netherlands took to the pitch in Wellington, New Zealand. As expected, it was a tough, physical game between the two teams.
Except the most physical one wasn’t the one fans were thinking it would be on Wednesday.
The USWNT got mad and rightfully so as their 13-game winning streak in the World Cup came to an end with their 1-1 draw against the Netherlands. Yet it was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide story for the U.S. after months of hype.
The Starting XI
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski appeared to run the same Starting XI as he did in the team’s opening match against Vietnam. The scheme didn’t change much for the hotly-anticipated match as he ran a 4-3-3 with these as the Starting XI: Naeher, Girma, Ertz, DeMelo, Horan, Smith, Morgan, Sullivan, Dunn, Rodman, and Fox.
The starting eleven still skewed fairly young up against a more veteran-stacked Netherlands squad. Surprising for the U.S. squad was seeing Rose Lavelle start on the bench along with Lynn Williams. Lavelle is the star-attacking midfielder who is still dealing with a knee injury she sustained back on April 8th. She trained with the squad and was able to make the World Cup roster. However, Andonovski said she wasn’t ready for a full 90 minutes of play.
Best Women’s World Cup Betting Offers
Dominating Dutch Left USWNT Behind
There’s no beating around the proverbial bush: the USWNT looked as slow as slugs in molasses in the first half. The Netherlands’ midfield was superb throughout the first half but had been giving space on the back line. Running a 3-5-2 with an absence of a star striker, the Dutch midfielders put on a masterclass. But thankfully the U.S. had some advantages in its use of corners even if Julie Ertz and Lindsey Horan’s shots went wide.
Yet in the 17th minute, the Dutch speed and attack proved successful. Midfielder Jill Roord fired it low from the edge of the box and it sailed through a sea of U.S. defenders and past keeper Alyssa Naeher to put the Netherlands up 1-0.
The U.S. struggled for the rest of the half to keep up with the Netherlands’ passing and tempo in possession. The Oranje exploited the spaces between Crystal Dunn and Emily Fox. What that did for the Dutch was open space in the box that Roord used to notch the opening goal. Against Vietnam, the USWNT could put its attacking intentions over anything else. Defensively, the USWNT looked all out of sorts while they had few attacking chances in the first half.
In the past 17 World Cup matches, the USWNT has never trailed and it was unfamiliar territory. The last time the U.S. was behind at the half was in the 2011 World Cup against Brazil in the quarterfinal. The Americans only put up two of eight shots on goal and were completely run over in the midfield.
Testiness was also on display with the officiating in the match. In first-half stoppage time, Savannah DeMelo avoided a card after chopping down Daniëlle van de Donk. She got a warning from the match officials.
Spicy Second Half Antics
Coming back from halftime, there was more fire and drive in the USWNT. The first, and only sub, of the game for the U.S. saw Lavelle come on for DeMelo. Lavelle was a much-needed spark for the sluggish American squad. And the simmering aggression came out in the 60th minute of the game.
van de Donk with the rough tackle on Horan saw the American looked at by medical staff. She returned to the pitch and immediately got in the face of her Lyon teammate. What ensued was a shoving match and sone harsh words exchanged between the two women.
But the Dutch damage was done and the spark was lit for the U.S. to be explosive. Lavelle took the corner toward the near post and Horan netted the header to equalize the game at one goal a piece. It was the 29th international goal for the 29-year-old midfielder.
After the goal, the USWNT had a fire under their cleats. Alex Morgan put one to the back of the net off a pass from Trinity Rodman but it was ruled offside. The latter part of the second half saw the pressure and attack the U.S. is known for on the field. Corners in the 83rd, 84th, and 85th minutes put the Dutch defense on alert but nothing converted. Full time is called and both squads walk away with a point and the final matches of group play will determine who moves on.
What’s next for the USWNT
It all comes down to the final Group E game against Portugal on August 1st at 3:00 am Eastern. Portugal was handed a loss by the Netherlands in its opening match, while the USWNT defeated Vietnam. The U.S. will need to win or draw against the Portuguese to advance to the round of 16. From there, where they finish in the group will determine their placement.
It wouldn’t be an easy road: the USWNT needs to win all four of their next World Cup matches to earn the three-peat.
Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more on Women’s World Cup content
Follow our Women’s World Cup team on Twitter:
Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga