United States vs. Brazil: 6 Things We Learned
The United States women's national soccer team took on Brazil on Sunday in Orlando, Fla. in an international friendly, winning 4-1 on the strength of two goals by Sydney Leroux and tallies by Abby Wambach and Erika Tymrak.
The win extended the USWNT's unbeaten streak to 39 games and helped the U.S. end 2013 with a 13-0-3 record.
Here are six things we learned from the American victory.
Sydney Leroux Stated Her Case
Over the past two years, Sydney Leroux has played second fiddle to the strike partnership of Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. But on Sunday against Brazil, Leroux showed what she can do given the chance against a top side.
From the opening kickoff, Leroux was a dominant force for the U.S. Most fans will focus on her two goals—both of which were very impressive—but what was just as impressive was the work she did when she wasn't in front of goal.
Leroux repeatedly checked back for the ball in the middle third of the field, holding possession and providing the U.S.' vital link in transition. She repeatedly brought her teammates into the game with her patient play, and her pace and power were simply too much for Brazil to contain.
Her impressive performance will just give U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni more to think about when selecting the starting XI going forward.
Stephanie Cox Had an Impressive Comeback Game
With regulars Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn and Meghan Klingenberg not available for Sunday's match against Brazil, the U.S. relied on returning veteran Stephanie Cox to man the right side of the U.S.' defense on Sunday.
Cox has been missing from the team since having her first child and last played for the U.S. 18 months ago in the 2012 Algarve Cup.
While one performance certainly isn't enough to make any far-reaching conclusions, she put her best foot forward and kept herself in the conversation for a roster spot looking ahead to the 2015 World Cup.
In addition to doing a nice job containing Brazil's attack and holding her shape well, Cox did well getting forward, and her service resulted in the U.S.' first goal.
The Defensive Midfielder Conundrum Remains
The U.S. has eight world-class attackers in Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. This abundance of attacking talent puts head coach Tom Sermanni in a difficult position when selecting a formation and a starting XI.
If he is to play six of the aforementioned players, he is almost forced to play Carli Lloyd as the defensive midfielder. However, Lloyd does not naturally sit back, which creates problems for the U.S. back line when no one is there to pressure the ball.
Amber Brooks got the start as the U.S.' defensive midfielder on Sunday and, while she certainly did not play poorly, it is impossible to argue that she is one of the U.S.' best 11 players.
It seems unlikely that Shannon Boxx will return to the U.S. squad for the 2015 World Cup, and if she doesn't, the U.S. still needs to solve its conundrum at defensive midfield.
Hope Solo Was Huge
As usual, when the U.S. defense was broken down on Sunday afternoon, Hope Solo was there to clean up the mess. She certainly didn't have a perfect game—she almost gifted Brazil a goal with an errant pass out of the back in the first half—but she was big when the U.S. needed her to be.
Solo made two point-blank breakaway saves—one in the 59th minute and another in the 62nd minute—and made a ridiculous one-handed save on a Brazilian shot in the 55th minute. To top it all off, Solo made a nice save on the near post in the 90th minute.
Erika Tymrak Is a Player to Watch
As if the USWNT didn't already have an embarrassment of attacking riches, Erika Tymrak is starting to show that she can contribute as well.
After winning 2013 National Women's Soccer League Rookie of the Year honors, Tymrak earned a call-up for the U.S.' friendly against Mexico in September. Her play in that game was just okay, and it looked like she had some first-cap jitters.
On Sunday against Brazil, Tymrak showed why she is such a highly rated player with a beauty of a goal in the 77th minute. Tymrak took the ball in heavy traffic at the top of the box, used her strength to hold off a Brazilian defender on her back, then beat another defender on the dribble before coolly slotting home on the near post.
Heather O'Reilly Didn't Have a Very Good Game
Heather O'Reilly is a USWNT legend, but on Sunday against Brazil, she was fairly ineffective. She did contribute the assist on the first goal, but that was about it.
She repeatedly gave away possession and, on several occasions, failed to go to the ball, creating dangerous counterattacks for Brazil.
She also failed to body up on Rosana leading to Brazil's lone goal.
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