The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup continued Wednesday (on FOX and the FOX Sports app) with a highly anticipated tilt between the United States and the Netherlands that ended in a 1-1 draw at New Zealand’s Wellington Regional Stadium.
The USWNT overcame a disjointed first half to seize control and net a 62nd-minute equalizer on a header from co-captain Lindsey Horan that reversed momentum during a second-half onslaught and ultimately earned the Americans a 1-1 draw.
The tactical changes by U.S. manager Vlatko Andonovski to introduce halftime substitute Rose Lavelle, who has come off the bench in each of the first two games, and instruct his side to push the pace with breakneck counterattacks stymied a Netherlands squad that tormented the U.S. in the first half. The draw snapped a streak of 13 consecutive wins at the World Cup for the USWNT, but kept the Americans atop Group E with one match remaining against Portugal on Aug. 1.
Still, the way Wednesday’s game ended — with the U.S. bombarding the Dutch penalty area and coming within a whisker of scoring a second, third and fourth goal — was far from how it began. Netherlands manager Andries Jonker dominated the tactical battle in the first half with a 3-1-4-2 formation that ripped the USWNT’s midfield apart and produced the opening goal on a shot from the top of the box at the 17-minute mark.
But Andonovski’s introduction of Lavelle and the change in sides that gave the U.S. momentum in the second half proved vital. The Americans clawed back for a draw and nearly scraped out a win despite keeping just 42% possession and completing nearly 150 fewer passes than the Dutch.
With the draw, the USWNT is now 1-1-4 (W-D-L) all-time when allowing a goal first.
Check out our live coverage below, including live analysis from FOX Sports’ Michael Cohen!
82′: What a chance!
Another direct attack from the U.S. A flick-on header created a breakaway opportunity for Trinity Rodman, who dragged her left-footed shot wide of the post.
The U.S. out-shot the Dutch, 15-5, despite having just 41% possession by the 89th minute. That was a reflection of how direct the USWNT played in the second half, constantly looking to run at the Dutch back line and counter with speed.
73′: Knocking on the door
USWNT star forward Sophia Smith was itching to add to her team’s score as the second half continued.
71′: Making a statement
Lavelle really helped the USWNT’s press in the second half. She was pushing the pace every time the Netherlands turned the ball over. The U.S. looked much more comfortable trying to play direct on the counterattack.
When Lavelle pushed forward, that almost gave the U.S. a fourth forward that forced at least one of the Dutch wingbacks to drop in defensively. It was a numbers game in midfield as things continued.
67′: Heating up
Nearly another goal for the U.S., as Rodman picked the pocket of a Dutch defender and found Alex Morgan on a through ball. Morgan slotted home but was a yard offside, keeping things even.
62′: GOAL! U.S. ties it up
The U.S. knotted things up on a set piece header from Horan. Lavelle flighted a beautiful in-swinging corner to the near post, and Horan flicked a header into the net.
Just before Horan’s goal, she was spoken to by the referee after a run-in with Dutch midfielder Daniëlle van de Donk.
Mere minutes into entering the match, Lavelle was shown the first yellow card of the match.
45′: Lavelle enters
After starting on the bench Wednesday, Lavelle came on in the second half to give the U.S. a much-needed spark. She has also scored against the Netherlands the past three times the two teams have met.
Meanwhile, an early change to the USWNT’s formation defensively came in the second half. Instead of having all three forwards press high, Andonovski settled his players into a 4-5-1 shape without the ball. Morgan stayed high up the field, but Smith and Rodman were playing a touch deeper to help compact the midfield.
Some issues for Andonovski to address at halftime:
– The U.S. press defensively. The front three of Morgan, Smith and Rodman were really disconnected up front. There was no cohesion to the way those three were trying to pressure the Dutch back line, and that allowed the Netherlands to play passes into midfield far too easily. Rodman in particular looked confused about where she should be playing when the Dutch have the ball. And, to be fair, that’s not entirely unexpected. The U.S. is so used to dominating possession in most of its matches that players aren’t accustomed to having just 39% of possession. The Americans were playing from a position that was uncomfortable.
– The space in midfield. Perhaps the USWNT’s back line was afraid of having balls played over its head due to the wind, but there always seemed to be a huge gap between the lines of the U.S. formation. The back four need to step higher up the field and compact the space, reducing the overall distance between themselves and the Morgan/Smith/Rodman front line. This will help close down the passing lanes in midfield and make it tougher for the Dutch to build through the middle.
– Consider a change in formation. The idea of having three forwards against the three Dutch defenders is enticing, but the U.S. has been unable to take advantage thus far. The result was being one player light in midfield. Fair to wonder if Andonovski will change shape to either a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 to get an extra body in midfield and match numbers with numbers in that part of the pitch.
35′: Missed opportunities
Similar design on both corner kicks from the USWNT. The goal was to create a flicked header at the near post. To reduce the number of bodies in that part of the field, the U.S. peeled a player from the goal line toward the top of the box in hopes of dragging a defender away from the fray. It was a smart design, but ultimately unsuccessful.
Elsewhere, the U.S. was getting stretched defensively. The distance between Morgan on the front line and the USWNT’s four defenders was 50 yards at times. This gave the Dutch a lot of space in midfields between the lines.
The U.S. has handled the ball 39% of the time thus far, while the Netherlands were in control 61% of the first half. Similarly, the Americans trailed the Dutch in total shots (9:2) and shots on goal (2:1) in the first 45 minutes.
29′: What could have been
The Netherlands’ Dominique Janssen nearly put her team up 2-0, but her shot from outside the box was just a bit high.
22′: No quit
Our first look at a corner kick against this wind was a really nice driven ball from USWNT midfielder Savannah DeMelo. She opted for a flat delivery instead of a bending the ball, a smart strategy to combat the stiff breeze.
17′: Goal! Dutch take the lead
The Netherlands were on the board first, courtesy of Jill Roord‘s low strike from the top of the box. The space was created when forward Lieke Martens made a beautiful turn in midfield to bypass the USWNT’s midfield line. That gave the Dutch a numerical advantage as they crossed to the final third, and Roord found the lower corner on a shot from a central position.
This was the first time the U.S. has been scored on first in a World Cup match since 2011. It was also the first time the USWNT has trailed in a World Cup match in its last 18 tournament games (including today).
9′: Applying pressure early
The USWNT was marking Dutch holding midfielder Jackie Groenen with DeMelo. Because the Dutch are only playing with one holding midfielder, this made it difficult for them to build from the back.
3′: Finding a rhythm
Right out of the gate, the wind was certainly a significant storyline for this match. In adverse conditions, coaches often encourage their players to keep the ball on the ground and reduce the number of aerial passes.
That tends to favor the squad with more technical players who can break down defenses using tight passing combinations instead of crosses that can be flown off target by the wind.
1′: Let’s go!
Just like that, things were underway in New Zealand.
Setting the stage
The “World Cup NOW” crew previewed the match live on Twitter ahead of kickoff.
Looking the part
Things were business as usual for the U.S. ahead of the much-talked-about match.
Both squads unveiled their starting lineups ahead of all the action.
Lavelle started on the bench in Wednesday’s rematch of the 2019 World Cup final, in which she scored the decisive second goal for the U.S. She also started on the bench in the team’s opener — her first match for club or country in over three months.
Four USWNT players in Wednesday’s lineup — Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz and Morgan — also started against the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final, while Naeher, Dunn, Ertz and Horan started against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Dutch were led by defender Stefanie van der Gragt — who scored the winning goal in the team’s opener — midfielders Sherida Spitse and van de Donk, and forward Martens, each of whom have made well more than 100 caps.
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