Leroux lifts USWNT over France in first test for new coach Ellis

Leroux FIFAWWCTWitterPhoto by ISIPhotos.com

By CAITLIN MURRAY

In a messy first showing under new coach Jill Ellis, it was again Sydney Leroux who saved face in Tampa, Fla. for the U.S. Women’s National Team and led the team Saturday to a win over France, 1-0.

Though both sides struggled with frequent turnovers and poor finishing, Ellis can count her first match as permanent USWNT head coach as a win with World Cup qualifiers just four months away.

The USWNT came out in a three-front — Ellis’ preferred but relatively new formation — and it was Leroux as the central target forward who made the most impact.

After receiving the ball on a frantic flick pass from forward Christen Press in the 22nd minute, Leroux dribbled through two French defenders and slipped a shot past charging goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. It would be the USWNT’s best chance all night and only shot on goal in a game that was plagued with loose balls and off-target shots on both ends.

France had plenty of quality chances that went squandered, grabbing just two shots on goal — but an early save from Hope Solo proved critical in netting the winning result. The speedy Elodie Thomis raced behind the U.S. defense on a counter in the 8th minute and blasted a one-on-one shot that Solo dived to kick-save.

In the 44th minute, Eugenie Le Sommer used a long touch to pass to herself around the U.S. defense and give herself a breakaway, but her shot from the edge of the 18-yard box hit the right post. Minutes later she returned with a header that Solo stopped but bobbled before holding on.

The match marked Solo’s 71st clean sheet, tying her with Briana Scurry for the team record.

It should’ve been a clash between two of the finest teams in women’s soccer, but the weather may be partly to blame for the messy play – the game was delayed for thunderstorms that left behind slick playing conditions.

A win is a win and Ellis starts her tenure meeting the very high expectations for the No. 1 world-ranked USWNT. France, ranked No. 4 in FIFA’s world rankings, is likely the toughest opponent the USWNT will face in 2014 outside of March’s Algarve Cup, where the USWNT struggled under previous coach Tom Sermanni.

With Saturday’s goal, Leroux now has seven in 11 international matches, including last month in Canada when she equalized late to salvage a point for the Americans in front of a hostile crowd of the 2015 World Cup host.

Alex Morgan returned from injury — coming off the bench to play 45 minutes after last appearing for the USWNT in November — and used her speed well to threaten France’s defenses, despite no shots on target.

The USWNT will play France again on Thursday in East Hartford, Conn. to close out the two-game friendly set.

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10 Responses to Leroux lifts USWNT over France in first test for new coach Ellis

  1. KingGoogleyEye says:

    Caitlin, I think you nailed it: “In a messy first showing … saved face … struggled with frequent turnovers and poor finishing … messy play”

    The USWNT didn’t play like champions controlling the match. They played like, well, like the USMNT.

  2. Liz says:

    Caitlin, agree agree agree. Post game quotes by Ellis are delusional. 6/1 S/SOG is appalling. I don’t understand the personnel choices for the formation, we seem to force square pegs, just to get certain players on the field. The key was always the midfield and only Holiday seemed to have the requisite skill and confidence to execute. Christen Press did a great job as de facto midfielder, which of course is part of the problem. Allie Long looked so underconfident, passing only to the unpressured back line. That choice may pad her pass connection stats, but France was happy for Long to drop the ball back on 98% of her touches. To be constructive, I urge every NT midfielder incorporate checking her shoulder for at least 1 hr per day for the next 30 days. Every NT player practice give and gos, bc that basic play is never used by anyone other than Krieger. Over and over, when a midfielder passed the ball, they would trot in a supporting position, not sprint forward to create an attacking option. It was maddening. Occasionally, the US midfield would work the ball into the attacking third, but the US forwards sat 5 yards above the France back line, so there was NEVER a threat for a dangerous through ball.

  3. Wood Chip Zip says:

    “the US came out in a three front” – shocking as that is what Abby wanted.

  4. kernel thai says:

    Here is what is shocking…the big quote when Sermanni was dismissed was the US wants to play attacking soccer. Well, they arent. After the dust settled they r basically trying to what Sermanni was doing only from an inferior formation. They dont have the forwards suited for a three front and refuse to leave popular players off the roster to correctly man the formation. The US did a nice job in possession, but none of it was positive. For a win over a quality team it was very disappointig.

    • Zack says:

      Agree…except I feel the USWNT do have the forwards to play with three up top. The problem is that Abby isn’t one of them, it should be Alex, Sydney and Press followed with Megan, Holiday and Tobin in the mid

  5. D Frazer says:

    The second half was terrible. Way too many giveaways. The last 10 minutes even worse. Why are we making long goal kicks when we played great possession soccer off the back line in the 1st half. Lucky to come away with a W.

  6. RPVCard says:

    It may be too early to start questioning the US coaching choice, but Jill Ellis always seemed to underachieve in her days at UCLA despite a talent advantage most of the time. Hope we are not headed for a replay!

  7. The Garrincha says:

    First a few things are in order here.
    Congratulations! to Holiday, on 100 caps well deserved, and to Solo, for 71 shutouts.
    Also a big welcome back to “Babyhorse”, was good to see her back out on the range.
    And SL, doing what she does, a great score, showing drive and tenacity, bossing her way to the goal.
    With that out of the way, O’Hara and Dunn, still appear to be a great left back options.
    Perhaps it would also be interesting to see Long, on the back line,
    for me smooth Morgan B. seems to be able to turn it up field and be a good catalyst from defense to offense.
    As for Cox, i’m sure she is a good pro and seems to be a decent sub utility player,
    though she instills no fear defending or going forward.
    Does she have the physicality, quickness, or speed to attack or recover effectively at this level?.
    9 out of 10 times the opposition will attack down that flank.
    I get the Grinchy cringes thinking that she may be the “Bornstein”, in the back?.