USWNT: Everything We Thought We Knew Was Wrong
Created on Jul 03, 2015 11:00 AM EST
I don't know which was more surprising: the fact that the United States Women's National Team beat Germany 2-0, or manner in which they put Die Nationalelf to the sword: with finesse and panache.
The excitement of the victory is enhanced all the more by the fact that they're getting a rematch with 2011 finals opponent Japan, with 538 giving them a staggering 67% chance of taking home the trophy.
If anything, however, the answer to the question "does Jill Ellis know what she's doing?" got even more mysterious. The US started in a five midfielder formation for the first time in recent memory, trusted genuine midfielders at attacking midfield positions, and left three of our most talented (and most popular) forwards on the bench: Abby Wambach, Christen Press, and Sydney Leroux. While each move was inspired, brave, and most importantly, handsomely rewarded, the confusing part remains: why didn't we see more of this earlier?
There are two possibilities. One is that Ellis has been holding this card for many months now and didn't play it until Germany to limit the amount of tape they could watch on it and provide the perfect tactical wrinkle to down the top-ranked team in the world. The other possibility is that given Ellis's relatively short stint with the team, she's been experimenting and attempting to shoe-horn the most talented 11 players into a starting lineup, but has taken until just now to really figure out the ideal system for her squad.
If it's the second, I'm not particularly sympathetic, because I began arguing staring May 10th for almost exactly what Ellis ended up doing. I'm not trying to say my take was unique, either, since major pundits like Jeff Carlisle were loudly sounding the horn on the exact same issues. Everyone knew that Abby Wambach needed to take a substitute role. Everyone knew we had no holding midfielders nor a system that compensated for it. Everyone knew our movement in midfield was horrific and predictable. Everyone knew there was a collosal hole in the middle of the field between the central midfielders and the strikers. And I think most people knew that a switch to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 would solve those problems. Give credit to Ellis for making those tough fixes, even if they were a bit late.
Regardless, the US has learned some remarkable things in its semi-final victory. Here are three I wasn't expecting, and one you already knew: