Tuesday, September 11, 2007

USA 2, North Korea 2

Dear Tony,

Not so good. The U.S. women's national team struggled to a 2-2 draw with North Korea, a team that should have been beaten yet appeared superior in virtually every aspect of the match.

Credit to the players for scratching out a draw and getting a point. But they appeared under-prepared for the North Koreans. Yes, I know, it's easy to second-guess while watching in your living room, but here goes.

A 4-3-3 is a bad idea when playing a quick, technical, balanced team. Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Lori Chalupny were over-matched and out-numbered in midfield all game. Chalupny was the most effective of the three, simply because she is the fittest and fastest of the midfielders. Her ability to chase is better than the other two. And chasing is what they were doing. The U.S. lost control of midfield early and never seemed to own it for any sustained period of time. Abby Wambach's goal was the only example of the forwards and midfielders working together. Heather O'Reilly's opportunistic finish to tie the game was a result of horrible defending and poor clearance, possibly the only time North Korea failed defensively.

And I never understood the point of three forwards if, for one, you can't build an attack and play the ball to them where they need it, or two, if they are going to constantly have to chase back into midfield to help. Three forwards are great if you are pressuring the other team's backs into submission, or creating a situation where passes are coming from midfield. Additionally, the North Koreans were able to own every second ball in midfield, simply because of numbers.

And during the run-up to the World Cup, coach Greg Ryan said the strength of the team was scoring off re-starts. Great. Being efficient on re-starts is a valuable tool. But only if the other team fouls you.

So for whatever reason, the U.S. dug themselves a hole. Friday they have to start climbing out of it.

When I think of more, I'll write
You know who

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