USWNT opens post-Sermanni era by beating China again

Carli Lloyd

By CAITLIN MURRAY

The post-Tom Sermanni era of the U.S. Women’s National Team has begun and, for now, not much has changed – the USWNT still coasted past China, 3-0, on Thursday and interim coach Jill Ellis doled out minutes to veterans and rookies alike, using all of her substitutions.

Buoyed by two beautiful Carli Lloyd goals, the USWNT built upon their first 2-0 win in this two-game set against China – the previous match having been Sermanni’s last as head coach. But perhaps most importantly for the U.S. women, they have officially moved on and have produced the results they expect against a team like China.

Ellis, who appears to be a top contender for the permanent head coach job, started the team in the same 4-3-3 formation Sermanni used in his last game in charge. But Ellis put her own stamp on the system, fielding Lauren Holiday as the target forward, with Sydney Leroux and Heather O’Reilly working the flanks.

Before the match, Ellis told NBC that the 4-3-3 is another weapon the USWNT would like to have in their arsenal – and it was Lloyd who made the formation look better than it had under Sermanni.

In the 20th minute, an unmarked Lloyd caught a bounced pass from Holiday and volleyed it from inside the penalty area to the near post with a delicate, restrained touch to avoid over-hitting it. Three minutes later, Lloyd was at it again, blasting a sailing and then dipping rocket from some 20 yards out, bringing her hips around to get a left-footed shot inside the near post.

Leroux scored one of her own in the opening minute of the second half, racing onto a pass from Megan Rapinoe before finishing to the far post with a sliding finish, a sequence touched off by a long ball.

China played better than in the previous meeting between the sides, but still couldn’t manage a grasp on attacking the Americans. While the Chinese played a more aggressive style and forced Hope Solo to make an early lunging save, they were still out-shot 18-3.

MOVING ON WITH A NEW COACH

It was unlikely the USWNT would come away with anything other than a win against China, but the match was about notching that first win in an uncertain period without Sermanni.

With the shock of Sermanni’s dismissal wearing off and the team officially entering the next phase of the squad, the focus turns to who will be picked from U.S. Soccer’s short list of coach candidates. Ellis had been the interim coach after Pia Sundhage left for Sweden, but said she didn’t want the job. This time around, she hasn’t yet decided, she said Thursday.

Before Thursday’s match, O’Reilly hinted Sermanni may have been favoring younger players or changing the team’s style too much, or was instituting changes too quickly.

“I think that we need a coach that’s going to blend this team – blend the old, blend the new, blend an aggressive style, blend a possession-oriented style,” O’Reilly told NBC, “and we just need a coach that is going to have the right cultural fit for this group.”

“This team is special in terms of its athleticism and aggression towards goal, but we’re also looking to play a very possession-oriented style,” O’Reilly added. “I think in order to blend those two, you need a very concrete and clear vision of what that’s going to take. I guess U.S. Soccer just didn’t think that Tom Sermanni was bringing that clear vision to us.”

Hours after the announcement of his firing last Sunday, Sermanni told SBI he had no clue U.S. Soccer was unhappy with his coaching.

Speaking to NBC after the match, Lloyd said the next USWNT coach doesn’t need to change much.

“This team just needs someone to steer us in the right direction,” Lloyd said. “We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the depth.”

—–

What did you think of the match? Think Ellis is off to a good start if this is her trial for the job? How did the performance compare to Sermanni’s match in this set against China?

Share your thoughts below.

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31 Responses to USWNT opens post-Sermanni era by beating China again

  1. wfrw07 says:

    That was about as unconvincing a 3-0 win as a team can have.

    A ton of hoof and chase, and quite a few players who struggled playing the ball on the ground when they went that route. I hope the third goal wasn’t a sign that we need to go back to that style of play.

    Lloyd did her thing, and Krieger was excellent defensively, but I’m not sure any other starter distinguished herself too much (Solo’s moment of glory aside).

    I continue to be impressed by Press. Her on the ball skills, vision, and decision making have been by and large excellent.

    • specialone says:

      Krieger gives the ball away way too much. She just launches long balls instead of keeping possession; a real turnover machine.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        As a defender, my response would be that if someone does a really good job defending and just needs distribution work, be thankful you have a stopper and work on them playing the ball out of the back on the ground.

        Part of the problem with the USMNT is that the emphasis seems to be on size and composure on the ball and not the prime directive of how well they can defend.

    • Alex H says:

      Massive agreement about Lloyd. She has the cajones to try sh*t and the ability to actually make it work. Given the uncertainties with the team a confident player like her absolutely needs to be on the field.

    • Alex H says:

      I would also say that Saurebrunn played well too.

  2. Don says:

    I hope USSOCCER brings in an outsider. Someone that’s not too close to the team. Tough decisions are coming and I’m not sure that Jill is the right person to make them.

    I also think she has way too much of a West coast bias

  3. Dr.Bombay says:

    From the writer: “…most importantly, they have officially moved on…”
    Sounds like you work for the USWNT Public Relations Dept. – Nothing to see hear, no problems, everything is a-ok – kits 50 % off.
    If a win over China proves anything, then the Sermanni coached win over China proved the same.
    I think it was a bone-head reactionary move to fire Sermanni, how that decision plays out will be seen over time, one game doesn’t mean a thing.
    Interesting take on OReilly’s view of Sermanni: “favoring younger players”, “too much change, too quickly” “right cultural fit”. What’s good for a certain group of older players may not be what’s good for the long term stability and progress of the team. Time will tell.
    It doesn’t look like they’ve moved on, it looks like they’ve just opened a can of worms.

    • A says:

      Not everything is a conspiracy, just a heads up.

    • Joseph D'Hippolito says:

      Agreed, Dr. Bombay. I would venture to say that the “old guard” has nothing to fall back on once their days playing soccer are done, so they want to do things they want to do them for as long as they can.

      Any coach would be crazy to walk into that situation. It’s clear that Wambach, O’Reilly et al run the team.

      Once the 2015 WWC ends, the federation needs to flush all the politicians, game players and tactical reactionaries (especially Wambach) down the toilet and rebuild. The federation should have done that after 2007 but too many of those players were in their physical prime. They aren’t, now.

      I agree also with Garrincha: The only field player worth a damn is Lloyd.

  4. Sven Bender's night on the town says:

    Could have made a helluva drinking game with that broadcast last night!

  5. Pingback: Union news & previews ahead of RSL, Copa America in USA, USWNT tops China, more

  6. Sven Bender's night on the town says:

    Interesting that Markgraf quoted Rapinoe saying that Sermanni was “ahead of the curve” in coaching….

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Reading between the lines, the “clear vision” comment seems to suggest that while players perhaps understood an old approach was being drummed out of them, and new players being infused, they didn’t quite get the new approach they were supposed to be adopting. The Algarve disorganization would seem to reflect this.

      That being said, I still get the idea there was lag, perhaps even purposeful, between when people expressed things and when action took place, and that this may reflect Gulati taking what would be charitably termed a “deliberative” approach, with him leading deliberations and thus aggrandized. If the team is a disorganized mess with a coach who can’t communicate his system, then you fire him before the next game, not in between 2-0 and 3-0 wins. After all, people are making similar winning ugly kind of comments after this one; the first China game’s frustration seems simply to reflect the opposition’s tactics, not something inherent about the coach.

  7. RB says:

    Not saying Sundhage was perfect or anything — in fact she seemed to be particularly weaker in what Sermanni was doing so much of, getting so many young players into the mix (took her so long even to make Morgan a starter) — but she’s looking better and better in retrospect, especially in the personality management department. The team seems like that fine European sportscar that roars past almost everybody, when fine-tuned properly, but keeping it fine-tuned properly is something only a select few can do…

  8. Bean says:

    I manage projects, and people for a living, and I can say that it’s quite difficult. You have to be careful about peoples egos. I can only imagine the extreme difficulty in managing a team of aging “stars” while trying to implement a new vision, and direction.

    I found the interview before the match to be very telling with the talk of culture, and the need to maintain a system.

  9. Brain Guy says:

    Well, we obviously don’t need to control for opponent, so the experiment clearly shows that Sermanni was costing them a goal per game. ; )

  10. The Garrincha says:

    In the end I believe we are all here because we care about the direction and ultimate success of the team. (if not then perhaps you are just a troll, or bandwagon, homer, damage control?).
    We all simply put want to see the best players and product on the field, that’s it, no more no less.

    I also am a big Wam, fan, who happens to be a New Yorker,
    I have no bias or prejudice, save quality control.
    I just want her to get out of her own way.
    So just enjoy the ride and hope you get that holy grail.

    In closing based on the comments from players, Hope Powell, seems more and more to be the right direction to go.

    • The Garrincha says:

      Oh yeah last few things,
      How bout that “Carli crash, everything and the kitchen sink Lloyd!”
      A few days back I aptly called her the greatest all around, most complete midfielder the US, has ever had.
      And Leroux, at the moment is a more dangerous striker than Press.
      Why?, because she lays it out on the line, and will get down and dirty to score,
      also seems to have great sense and rapport with Rapinoe.
      Press, has scored a lot of goals but not to many of those kind of goals.

    • necron99 says:

      Hope Powell was a terrible coach. She did well in the beginning and then tapered off. She never won any serious competition. In the end she had the same problem as Pia Sundhage, she chose a set of favored players and never wavered. As those players ceased getting it done, she held her ground. At least Pia won with her group. Many quality players never got a chance. Even players that were winning the FAWSL (or it’s predecessor leagues) golden boot weren’t getting called in.

      Also Powell was almost always too late making player or tactical changes during Games, witness the 2012 Olympics. With the overall talent she had available she should have done much better.

  11. The Garrincha says:

    When I say those type of goals
    I mean hustle, grind it out, make something happen out of nothing kind of goals.

  12. Dinho says:

    I agree with Garrincha re: Carli Lloyd. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more complete USWNT women’s soccer player, ever. Yes, Mia could score goals by the boatload, Abby is (was) great, and Akers could command the midfield.

    But, Carli can do it all, and does not seem to have any problem putting in the work. As long as she is given room to roam, the USWNT will stand to do well.

    • The Garrincha says:

      Thank you Dinho, Hey I wasn’t going to bring this up.
      but last Olympics, I was dismayed when I saw the initial rosters and Crash, wasn’t on the starting party list.
      Then off course the injury to Boxx, opened up a spot for her on the pitch and the rest is history.
      Funny though Carli, scored some of the biggest goals for the USWNT in the previous Olympics and other tournaments.
      Off course we all know what the women achieved as a TEAM.
      However along with Wam, this millennium, nobody has scored more big goals for the USWNT. than, “Carli crash everything and the kitchen sink Lloyd!”.
      water under the bridge, well done ladies. Baby Horse, get well.
      Forward, onward, and upward… Semper Fidelis, Excelsior!.

  13. Manny says:

    The clock is ticking on USWNT 2.0. It is becoming clear that Women’s soccer is shifting from kick and run to a more technical and deliberate attack.

    Sermanni tried to do what Klinsmann did with the USMNT, the only difference is that Gulati did not have Sermanni’s back. Doubling down on this aging squad is good for the present, but the decision will have 2 consequences:

    1. It undermines the authority of the next manager.

    2. It will stunt the growth of our next generation.

    For all the talk of the Ponytail Mafia outliving it’s usefulness, we’ve essentially implored the rest of the world to surpass us.

  14. Bianca V says:

    I feel like though the scoreline wasn’t a drastic change, this team did play better than they played on Sunday. There are still a lot of things that need to be worked out, but for their first game without Sermanni, it was the best I’d seen them play in months. The passing was a lot better in some parts of the game and players were connecting a little bit in certain moments (though a lot of runs were off and some players were still unsure of their positions). I think with more time together and a new coach, they’ll be able to find themselves again

  15. The Garrincha says:

    Amazing, my goodness,
    that 20 meter strike Crash Lloyd, did with her Left.
    I don’t know if anyone on the planet, man or woman, could have struck a ball as well with their non dominant foot.
    Beautiful! highlight reel goal for # 50.

  16. The Garrincha says:

    I was thinking, I love the thought of Hope Powell, guiding the machine.
    However, we hope the ladies got it all back together by themselves,
    hell, you could almost just about have Rampone,
    as a player coach.

  17. Bohratom says:

    I’m gad Sermanni was released because I felt he was changing then team with too many younger players. When something works the worse thing one can do is change it too quickly. My Jersey Girl Carli once again went all out scoring two goals and controlling the midfield with perfect passes up field. She and Abby have no fear as Carli almost broke her nose on trying to head one in and Abby ened up with a nice shiner.

    One player I have not been a fan of is forward Christen Press. She may score a lot of goals for her Swedish Club but it seems every time she gets the ball she just puts her head down and runs to goal. I’ve seen Carli give her beautiful passes near the goal and rather then passing it back to a wide open Lloyd she insteads shoots on goal. That is what I miss about Morgan because not only is she an awesome goal scorer but she is our best passing forward. I really hope when Morgan is back from injury she is 100% back because other then Carli Lloyd I think she is the best all around player for the USWNT.

    • Too says:

      Sadly ramming your head into people doesn’t work against European teams. Abby knocking players around in the box and attempting to play target forward in a 433 only works on the Asian countries excluding Japan. She had her ass handed to her by Nilla Fischer and Sweden at Algarve and she doesn’t have youthful inexperience as an excuse. Maybe Americans don’t get to see the US play against real opponents often, but it is a different world out there and the ones that are trying to improve the team and drag it kicking and screaming into modern soccer know that. That’s why they hired Tom. That’s why there are younger players brought in who have those qualities that need to be encouraged. It isn’t an over 30s league. Germany is as good as the US an their XI averages around 24 years of age if that. The problem with sticking with the vets is they are old and some are resisting the change. The WC is over a year away and they will be even older. Playing on Canadian turf is a huge issue. Fortunately many of the vets can learn new tricks or stay relevant like Carli. That isn’t going to be 100% of them and no one player should hold the whole team hostage because they can’t keep up.