The USWNT reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 Olympics, but they have limped rather than roared into the knockout rounds.
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Following a dour 0-0 draw against Australia in Kashimi, the USWNT sealed second spot in Group G as they knew a draw would be enough.
For many, the level of performance wasn’t enough as they had one good scoring chance (Alex Morgan’s header was ruled out for offside) and Australia had 61 percent of possession.
The Matildas were content to play for a draw too given their group stage situation, but as the pre-tournament favorites the USWNT gained four points from their three group stage games which is their lowest-ever tally in an Olympics or World Cup group.
Speaking after the game, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski revealed the strategy, as the second half played out with both teams sitting back and keeping the ball.
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“We came with the mindset that the first goal was to win the game and the second one was to put in a good, professional performance,” Andonovski said.
He added: “It was a great test for us today to see that the players can execute the game plan very, very well, so whatever we feel like we need to do to win the (next) game, we’re going to present it to them and then let them do their job.”
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Players happy with playing for a draw?
Alex Morgan spoke alongside Andonovski and had this to say when asked about the strategy.
“It’s seeing how Vlatko wants us to set up against that (next) team. Tactically we had a little shift this game, we’re experienced enough and professional enough to be able to do so and face a team in a way that puts us on top and really plays to our strengths,” Morgan said.
The USWNT will carry out Andonovski’s plan and this was all about conserving energy for the quarterfinal, which will be a very tough game against either the Netherlands or Brazil.
What is more concerning for the USWNT is that they’ve been poor in possession so far during this tournament and lack a cutting edge in attack aside from a late flurry against minnows New Zealand.
The USWNT also doesn’t have momentum in Japan after being hammered by Sweden, breezing by New Zealand and then struggling against Australia in the group stage.
It’s a cliche but for the USWNT the tournament truly starts now. So far, they’re stuck in neutral.
USWNT explains strategy during dour draw v. Australia originally appeared on NBCSports.com