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World Cup: Ellis Plays the Hand She’s Dealt, USWNT wins “Group of Death”

US advanced to round of 16.

Hope Solo: fan photo uncredited

Hope Solo: fan photo uncredited

Amidst tactical questions, stylistic issues, and strange substitutions Ellis may have figured things out in the last match; a comfortable 1-0 win over Nigeria.

Forgetting the fact that the USA had a controversial goal disallowed and a sure penalty for handball went unpunished that could have seen a more convincing scoreline, the USA played to what is fast becoming its strength – possibly the best back-line in the tournament.

Though the creativity in the midfield has been lacking and so has the finishing, what has been good is the defense in the midfield in recovering the ball, and the back-line’s recovery runs.  And of course, the US also has the world’s best keeper in Hope Solo.

So rather than attacking, especially once the Nigerians were down to 10 players, Ellis opted for experienced US soccer legends Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx and no, they weren’t just substitutes for posterity and a “nice moment”.

Rampone and Boxx helped clamp down what already was a solid defensive unit and the US goal was never really threatened as Solo was only forced to make 2 average saves in the match.

What struck me was that critics of the US team, myself included, were being compared unfavorably to France and even the free-flowing creative attack of Nigeria who scored 3 goals against Sweden, but when they faced the US did not threaten the goal.

So although the US attack may be off, the idea that the team needs to score tons of goals to win may be negated should the US continue to defend as it has since a poor stint against Australia in the opening match.

This was never more evident than the play of Klingenberg and Krieger who have in the past been attacking options, but kept their shape at the back once the US had the lead on Abby Wambach’s goal.

So for American supporters, the US strategy may be not to win games 4-3 but rather, 1-0 in this World Cup.



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