With the U.S. WNT in the midst of a youth movement 34-year-old Carli Lloyd reminded everyone that the reigning World Player of the Year is not going anywhere just yet, scoring twice to lead the Americans to a 5-1 win over Switzerland on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.
In the wake of an early exit from the 2016 Olympics and with three years until the World Cup in France, U.S. coach Jill Ellis continued to experiment with the team’s style and personnel.
Like in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the same opponent Ellis sent her side out in a 3-5-2 featuring Allie Long in the center of that defensive trident.
The Americans dominated from the start but found themselves behind on a seventh minute counter attack goal by Sandrine Mauron that exposed some of the potential deficiencies in the three back set with Long caught out of position and wingback Kelley O’Hara unable to get back in time to break up the play.
After the goal, the U.S. went right back to dominating a Swiss team that has been weakened throughout this two-game set by the absence of several key players.
Lloyd equalized in the 25th minute with a thunderstrike from close to 30 yards, as well struck a shot as you will see in any soccer match, men’s or women’s.
The Yanks added four more goals in the second half and with the Americans dominant throughout these 180 minutes, the question became who impressed and what did Ellis see that she can use going forward?
Is the 3-5-2 here to stay? Who knows? Minus Ramona Bachmann and some other key contributors, the Swiss were simply unable to test that back three with any consistent pressure over these two games.
And Long? Unsurprisingly the late blossoming national team midfielder was comfortable on the ball and it is easy to see that team could benefit from Long’s ability to jumpstart the offense with her passing. Tougher defensive tests will tell more but TV commentator and former U.S WNT coach Tony DiCicco wondered at halftime, why not play Becky Sauerbrunn, who DiCicco called the best center back in the world, in that spot? It is a reasonable question.
Lynn Williams and Andi Sullivan top this list. The Western New York forward scored a goal in the first match and added an assist in game two but more importantly the NWSL MVP looked very much at home at the top of the U.S attack.
Sullivan looked equally at home in the U.S. midfield calmly handling her defensive duties while accurately spraying passes all over the pitch, earning Player of the Game honors in the first match and chipping in with an assist in game two.
Also impressive? The depth of the U.S. talent pool. The sheer amount of talented players available for selection to the U.S. WNT is impressive. Just look at the team sheet and then consider the players, not on it. Alex Morgan, Julie Johnston, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg, Mallory Pugh, Ali Krieger are just some of the players Ellis left out of this group.
Carli Lloyd and the Number 10 Dilemma
For all of that talent available to Ellis there has been the feeling that the U.S. is lacking a true number 10, a string-puller in the midfield to set up the attack.
On Sunday, Ellis sent out Crystal Dunn, Morgan Brian, and Andi Sullivan as her central midfield with Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath operating as wingbacks. It looked like Dunn was being tried out in the 10 role but as the game progressed Lloyd began dropping deeper into the U.S midfield to pick up possession, delivering a succession of well-chosen passes, effectively running the show.
Of course, this being Carli Lloyd, she threw in a goal, the game-winner as it turned out. Lloyd’s 51st-minute winner goes into the books as unassisted but Lloyd not only finished the play, she started it.
Lloyd delivered a fine through ball to Christen Press, who was very good over the two Switzerland games, before running onto a loose ball when the Swiss defense tackled Press and finishing in style.
So, is Lloyd the answer at the playmaking role? There is more than enough time and Lloyd is 34, and she has to age eventually, right?
There are other candidates, too. Among them Brian, and perhaps the gifted attacker Lindsey Horan, whom Ellis seems to want to get on the field without quite knowing where to best use her. And then there is Heath. The team’s best passer would appear ideally suited to the position.
But Ellis needn’t rush this decision or any other for that matter. It is, after all, a long way til 2019.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 4 5
SUI 1 0 1
SUI – Sandrine Mauron (Lara Dickenmann) 7th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Kelley O’Hara) 25
USA – Carli Lloyd 51
USA – Christen Press (Andi Sullivan) 53
USA – Crystal Dunn (Lynn Williams) 63
USA – Kealia Ohai (Christen Press) 82
USA: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (14-Abby Dahlkemper, 67), 20-Allie Long, 8-Casey Short; 5-Kelley O’Hara (23-Christen Press, 46), 19-Andi Sullivan, 6-Morgan Brian (3-Samantha Mewis, 46), 16-Crystal Dunn (7-Kealia Ohai, 81), 17-Tobin Heath; 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (9-Lindsey Horan, 74), 13-Lynn Williams
Subs not used: 1-Alyssa Naeher, 12-Emily Sonnett
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
SUI: 1-Gaëlle Thalmann (12-Stenia Michel, 46); 15-Caroline Abbé (capt.), 22-Vanessa Bernauer, 18-Viola Calligaris, 6-Selina Kuster; 5-Noelle Maritz, 14-Rahel Kiwic (3-Melanie Müller, 88), 11-Lara Dickenmann; 8-Cinzia Zehnder (7-Martina Moser, 59), 19-Eseosa Aigbogun (4-Fabienne Bangerter, 71), 20-Sandrine Mauron (2-Patricia Willi, 85)
Subs not used: 21-Seraina Friedli, 16-Fabienne Humm, 23-Barla Deplazes
Head Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg
Stats Summary: USA/SUI
Shots: 21 / 4
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves: 1 / 5
Corner Kicks: 9 / 0
Fouls: 7 / 14
Offside: 11 / 2
SUI – Sandrine Mauron (caution) 17th minute
SUI – Viola Calligaris (caution) 21
USA – Casey Short (caution) 73
SUI – Martina Moser (caution) 90+3