For fans of the men’s version of the United States national team, seeing an actual World Cup qualifying tournament with games nearly 48 hours apart had to seem strange. Yet, on Wednesday night that’s exactly what CONCACAF pulled off as 2015 World Cup qualifying got underway in Group A.
The USWNT won 1-0 over Trinidad & Tobago in the final game of a doubleheader at Sporting Park in Kansas City. It put the Women’s national team in a first place tie with surprising 1-0 winners Haiti, with a second Group A game against Guatemala coming up on Friday.
While the win is nice, there were definitely a lot of things learned about this team for the rest of this tournament and the 2015 World Cup. Let’s take a look at the lessons we learned on Wednesday night.
1. Abby Wambach is still the heart of this team
Yes, the United States peppered the T&T goal, but there was little to no finishing effort outside of the legendary Abby Wambach. She may be getting older, but her finishing (whether via head or foot) is still priceless stuff to watch. She put home goal No. 171 to extend her already owned record for goals on the USWNT and gave this team the needed three points.
Outside of her, this team lacked any sort of finishing class and most of the attacking players looked like they were just winging it all game long. There was no cool, calm or collected finishing by the rest of the team. If anyone else emerges as a legit threat to score goals it would be helpful to this team’s chances in this tournament and the 2015 World Cup (should they get there).
2. T&T provided blueprint for everyone playing the USWNT
World Cup qualifying isn’t always about playing attractive soccer or the style you’re most accustomed to. It’s all about the results by any means necessary, and T&T gave the rest of CONCACAF the blueprint on how to frustrate the United States.
The soca princesses put five women in the back, hunkered down and counter attacked when the opportunity presented itself. Those tactics, combined with a goalkeeper standing on her head gave T&T a real chance in this game.
At times the USWNT looked very vulnerable at the back, and were especially close to giving up a goal or two on the counter attack. The only thing missing from T&T was a true finisher on the offensive end or this game could’ve ended very differently for the USWNT.
3. CONCACAF is getting much better
Qualifying for the Women’s World Cup was usually an assured thing for the USWNT, but after watching the first two games of the qualifying tournament it is clear that the rest of CONCACAF is getting much better than we all thought.
It used to be USA, Canada and then maybe Mexico as the only teams worth worrying about. However, Haiti taking down Guatemala with 10 women and Trinidad & Tobago’s performance in a 1-0 loss to the United States showed that things are starting to get much more competitive.
That’s a good thing for the women’s game overall and especially for this region. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of this tournament plays out, but don’t be surprised to see an upset or two happen along the way.
4. Big Results will come
Sometimes you just run in to a player who has the game of her life, and the USWNT had that happen to them on Wednesday night in Kansas City. Depsite 27 shots and 12 shots on goal, the United States could only put one of them in to the back of the net. Credit T&T goalkeeper Kimika Forbes for frustrating the American attack on multiple occasions. She made numerous highlight reel saves and kept her team in the game for the majority of the night.
Forbes’ performance was the biggest reason it was just a 1-0 scoreline, but don’t expect that to keep on happening in this tournament. Goals are going to come, and they’re going to come in bunches…probably on Friday night as well. Sure, it is troublesome to see the American attack struggle in the final third at times, but there were plenty of chances that would’ve been put in on any other night.
In the words of Aaron Rodgers: R-E-L-A-X.
5. CONCACAF sucks at organizing Women’s events
While the sexy qualifying happens in UEFA on the men’s side of things…CONCACAF qualifying is must-see TV for those who really pay attention to the international game. Too bad the same can’t be said of the way CONCACAF treats the women’s game.
I get that the women’s game isn’t nearly as popular around the world or even in America, but having a tournament style qualifying taking place in such a short span is ridiculous to say the least. Treat the women like the men and start making qualifying really matter. Having one country host the tournament (even if America is the best spot for it) is just amateur and gives the host country a near guarantee to World Cup qualification. It just smacks of not caring about the game to me, as does the severe lack of attendance at the first two games of the tournament in Kansas City.
If you treat the women like the men on a competitive basis and treat them like they aren’t second-class citizens in CONCACAF and the game may grow even more on the women’s side.