When the US roster for the two friendlies against Switzerland was released, coach Jill Ellis showed that now was the time to try new players, formations and tactics from that of the team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup and was also eliminated from the Rio Olympics.
The experimentation began with a 3-5-2 formation to start the game. While the US has utilized this formation before, it featured Allie Long as the CB flanked by Emily Sonnett on the right and Becky Sauerbrunn on the left. Prior to this game Long had not played center back before, but was given the opportunity because of her ability to distribute the ball and switch the point of attack.
Unfortunately the experiment did not start off smoothly. In the first minute of play Long gave the ball away in the US half. Switzerland tried to move forward on the counter, but Sauerbrunn stepped in and was able to slow and contain the attack until the midfield could recover and prevent any dangerous chances.
The US midfield consisted of Morgan Brian and Andi Sullivan sitting in front of the back three, Tobin Heath and Casey Short on the wings, and Lindsey Horan in the middle behind the forwards. Both Sullivan and Short earned their first caps for the US and performed well though Short looked more comfortable in the second half when she moved back into her more natural spot in the defense.
Up top were Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn. It was an interesting pairing that didn’t really amount to much in for the US in the first half. The majority of the attack came from the right side of the field where the skill, speed and tenacity of Heath and Dunn ran riot against the Swiss defense. Unfortunately the US was unable to capitalize on the numerous crosses that the pair created.
The first two good chances for the US came from Horan. With the absence of Julie Johnson, it was Horan who made a near post run on a US corner in the 9th minute. Horan met the ball in the air, but saw her header go just over the bar. Two minutes later Horan tried with her left foot after Dunn won the ball from in the attacking third and fed Horan at the top of the box. Horan sent a curling shot towards the far post, but Swiss keeper Gaelle Thalmann dove full stretch to her right to push the ball safely over the end line.
Switzerland’s only chance of the game came in the 31st minute after another give away at the back. Sonnet’s misplayed pass found Eseosa Aigbogun alone at the top of the box, but her shot was tipped up and over the bar by Alyssa Naeher for her first of two saves on the way to her sixth career shutout.
At halftime the US brought on Lynn Williams and Christen Press for Horan and Sonnett. The subs allowed Short to move to left back while Sauerbrunn switched to right back and moved Lloyd into the midfield. Less than a minute after the start of the half, the US took the lead when Williams took advantage of a unforced turnover by Switzerland. Williams collected the ball and dribbled in on goal, slipping her shot past Thalmann who came off her line to apply pressure.
William’s goal flipped a switch in the US attack and the new look team fell into their old rhythm thanks largely to the veterans that were included in the roster. At the hour mark Dunn saw her initial shot at the top of the eighteen blocked by the defense, but after winning the ball back laid if off to Heath in the box. Without a mark, Heath picked out the far lower corner of the goal to double the US lead.
In the 64th minute Kelley O’Hara entered the game for Lloyd and within five minutes set up the third US goal. After running onto a quick through pass from Williams, O’Hara sent in a low cross to Press who beat her defender to the ball at the top of the six yard box for an easy finish.
Williams nearly scored again in the 70th minute after getting her head to a cross from Dunn. Williams rose up above her defender to direct the ball down, bouncing in front of the keeper who reacted to palm the ball over the goal.
The three final US subs saw the debuts of Abby Dahlkemper and Ashley Hatch who came in for Long and Heath while Samantha Mewis was swapped in for Sullivan. Dahlkemper stayed as the center back where she played every minute this season for the Western New York Flash.
Not to be outdone by Williams, Mewis scored the final goal of the night within seconds of entering the game in the 76th minute and with her first touch. Press carried the ball into the box and cut back at the end line to create time and space for her to pick out a cross into Mewis’s late run into the box. Mewis met the cross with her head and beat the keeper at the near post.
While it was the veteran players who put the game out of reach in the second half, the strong performances by Williams and the rest of the new crop of USWNT players shows that the US has the depth to continue their role as the dominant team in women’s international soccer.