USWNT underperforms but squeaks through to knockout rounds

USWNT's Andi Sullivan talks with team

USWNT’s Andi Sullivan talks with team during World Cup match against Portugal (Photo by Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

A gentle breeze would have been enough to coax Ana Capeta’s 92nd-minute shot into the back of the net and send the USWNT crashing and burning out of the World Cup.

To the relief of everyone in red, white, and blue, the post was the USWNT’s player of the match and they now find themselves sheepishly sliding their way into the knockout rounds.

The USWNT won the 2019 World Cup. Meanwhile, Portugal was playing in its first-ever World Cup this summer. And in 10 prior meetings between the two countries, the US won all 10 times.

On paper, this was far from an even matchup, yet not only did Portugal compete, they had the upper hand. By the end of the match, the US was desperately trying to hang onto a tie.

USWNT players and coaches got in their own way

Two teammates jumped for the same header, volleys were wildly swiped at and missed, and passes lacked pace and precision.

Trinity Rodman should have been brought on sooner, Rose Lavelle picked up a second yellow that makes her ineligible for the next game, and Kelley O’Hara, a player that only saw 2 minutes of playing time, had more fight in her than anyone else on or off the field.

The USWNT represents my home, my country. I have connections with players on the team. I want them to succeed. But something needs to change.

In a post-match interview, O’Hara made some valid points reminding everyone that winning a World Cup is incredibly hard and ultimately if you get there in the end it doesn’t matter how pretty the journey was.

I also realize I’m judging the USWNT’s subpar play from the comfort of my couch, far from the pressure and expectation surrounding the World Cup stage. But the fact still remains, the USWNT lacks cohesion, precision, and a tenacity that past World Cup squads have exhibited in abundance.

They might still win the World Cup. But the way things stand, that would require their next four opponents to crumble.

Maybe it’ll be Kelley O’Hara’s post-game speech. Maybe it’ll be that horrible feeling of experiencing a tie that feels like a loss. Whatever lights their fire needs to light it now.

So I say to the USWNT, pull out the matchbook, strike the match, and get it done. We don’t have time for them to sit out in the backwoods rubbing two sticks together hoping for an eventual spark.