The disappointments continued for the United States Women’s National Team program as the young Americans were eliminated from the U17 World Cup with Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Japan in Jordan.
The U.S. was unable to hold onto or build upon a first half lead supplied by a 33rd-minute strike from the team’s best player Ashley Sanchez, surrendering three consecutive second-half goals before Sanchez’ added time score from the penalty spot.
That late tally did little to hide the fact the Americans had been thoroughly outplayed for most of the Group D finale by the defending champions, who gave the Americans a badly needed lesson in possession soccer.
The Americans were similarly schooled in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Ghana, another game that saw the U.S. cough up an early lead. Striker Frankie Tagliaferri spotted the U.S. a one-goal lead in the fifth minute of game two but with Ghana controlling possession and looking by far the more dangerous team, it was no surprise that the lead did not hold.
Game one results made the Ghana loss all the more surprising, with the U.S. having easily brushed aside Paraguay by a 6-1 scoreline while Ghana had lost to Japan 5-0 in first round action.
Losing to a very talented Japan side is no great surprise and it is surely worth noting that the Americans have never won the U17 Women’s event, which is being held for the fifth time since its 2008 introduction.
The U.S. lost the championship match to North Korea that first year and have not finished in the top four since, results that have hardly held back the success of the full national team.
What puts this tournament in a more discouraging light, however, is the regressive style of play demonstrated by the U.S. against Japan and Ghana and recent results at the U20 level and of course at the recent Olympic Games.
The defending World Cup Champions suffered a shock defeat in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics and that loss was followed by a very poor effort by the U20 side at September’s NTC International, a World Cup prep tournament.
The U20’s were hampered by a mostly unavailable Mallory Pugh, who was in and out of the lineup as she recovered from an ankle injury suffered during the Olympics but that hardly excuses a goalless, last place finish at a tournament played at the U.S. home base of Carson, California.
Against Ghana and Japan sustained build up play seemed a foreign concept to the American U17’s, who struggled to fend off the aggressive press of the opposition and whose only threat was quick counters and long balls over the top of the defense.
The U20 side will have a chance to soothe the frazzled nerves of U.S. WNT supporters at the U20 Women’s World Cup in Papua, New Guinea running from November 13 through December 3rd.