USWNT vs. Netherlands takeaways: Horan’s goal, Andonovski’s approach in 1-1 draw

The U.S. women’s national team fought back from a goal down for a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in its second game of the World Cup on Thursday afternoon local time. Jill Roord opened the scoring for the Netherlands in the 17th minute as the U.S. struggled to keep up with the Netherlands’ passing and tempo in possession and their defensive cover out of it. Lindsey Horan scored the equalizer in the second half off a corner kick, just moments after coming to blows with her Lyon club teammate Danielle van de Donk.

The result leaves the U.S. on top of Group E on goal difference, with both the U.S. and Netherlands sitting on four points. Neither team can secure a spot in the knockout round before their third and final group stage games.

Kudzi Musarurwa and Jeff Rueter were watching, and have some instant analysis.

How the Netherlands opened the scoring

Against Vietnam, the United States could afford to prioritize its attacking intentions over team shape in transition and defensive moments. Most often, that meant sending full backs Crystal Dunn and Emily Fox forward and dropping Andi Sullivan deeper to compensate with little need to worry about counter attacks.

Given the Netherlands’ increased quality, running a similar gambit wasn’t sustainable. Still, head coach Vlatko Andonovski did little to change the team’s initial approach, giving the Dutch plenty of space to exploit beyond Fox and Dunn to stretch the U.S. center backs wide and open space near the box. It did a trick in the 17th minute, as an initial sequence beyond a back-tracking Dunn recirculated to Jill Roord at the top of the box for a clean finish beyond Alyssa Naeher. It was the first shot the United States had incurred in the tournament to date — and the first time they trailed in any World Cup game since 2011 against Brazil.

Given Portugal’s tactical approach and the quality of teams which the U.S. would face in the knockout stage, the USWNT’s approach figures to be unsustainable without tweaks and adjustments. Perhaps it requires a change in team shape to push a midfielder further up to take creative pressure off of the full backs. Whatever the change, simply running it back for a third consecutive match could be ill-advised.

— Jeff Rueter

Horan gets aggressive assist from club teammate

For a full hour, the Netherlands did well to contain the United States. They clearly studied the tape from the Americans’ 3-0 win over Vietnam: shut down passing lanes to Sophia Smith, exploit the space beyond fullbacks Crystal Dunn and Emily Fox on the break, and contain the game in midfield. The latter focus was particularly stifling for Lindsey Horan, who was limited to just 22 touches in the first half after making 100 in the group opener.

It all boiled over in the 60th minute as Daniëlle van de Donk made an aggressive tackle on Horan as she attempted a squaring pass near the endline. After having her knee examined by the trainers for a couple of minutes, Horan returned to the pitch for a corner kick and immediately confronted her fellow Lyon midfielder with a shoving match and exchange of words.

The center official brought the two together to attempt to restore decorum — but from a Dutch perspective, the damage was done. As the United States has done for much of the tournament to date, Rose Lavelle directed the corner kick toward the near post. Horan rose to meet it for a thunderous header to level the match, a sorely needed breakthrough after a frustrating hour of play.

It didn’t end the fracas between the teammates-turned-rivals; within a couple of minutes, Horan was whistled for a foul after pulling van de Donk down on a midfield possession. However, it was a pivotal moment which woke up one of the United States’ best players just in time to claw back into the game. And luckily for Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor: the two made up after the final whistle.

– Rueter

Weather plays a role

The wind was a factor throughout this game. With the harbor so closeby, the stadium almost acts like a wind tunnel with no barriers in place to stop the gusts coming in off the south coast of New Zealand’s north island. All game, any time the ball hit a certain height, the wind carried it away from the players and toward the sidelines. Both teams had to adapt to that and played crosses that were lower or flatter than usual to make sure they got to their intended target.

By the time the second half rolled around, both teams had adjusted. Both teams kept the ball on the grass, making for better passing sequences and better movement from all involved as the wind continued to swirl around the Wellington Regional Stadium.

— Kudzi Musarurwa

I don’t want no subs

The U.S. lineup went unchanged from the opening match against Vietnam to the clash against the Netherlands, with Andonovski electing to build consistency and back the players who notched a 3-0 win to step up against a more competitive rival. The Dutch came prepared in the first half (more on that in a bit), forcing a substitution at the break to bring Rose Lavelle in for Savannah DeMelo. With many other players having logged 135 high-stakes minutes in the span of five days, it seemed inevitable that a few other lineup holdovers would cycle out as the game progressed.

And yet, that did not happen. Even after Horan headed home an equalizer to wrestle back momentum, the team remained unchanged. Players were caught waiting for the pass to arrive as the Netherlands forced turnovers. Veterans Horan and Crystal Dunn were repeatedly seen begging teammates to step up their intensity. Despite obvious signs of needing personnel changes, the U.S. saw out the rest of (the) second half (regulation) without bringing on any other substitutions, while the Dutch made a total of four changes in the second half.

It seemed clear that Lynn Williams would have helped against tired legs given her strong goalscoring form and capable pressing acumen. So, too, could have Alyssa Thompson or Megan Rapinoe given the Netherlands’ low block and willingness to concede set pieces (respective to each player). Even Ashley Sanchez could have provided another shooting option as the U.S. searched for an additional two points. Instead, six players have been on the pitch for all 180 minutes in the tournament’s early stages. Tired legs are seldom going to wake up with that kind of workload in a tournament’s early stages.

— Rueter

What the Netherlands did right in the first half

The Netherlands were brilliant in the first half at containing Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman in particular. They didn’t let any of their back three be isolated against either Smith or Rodman and it made it difficult for them to do what they do best. The Dutch also limited Alex Morgan, as she had no one to play the ball to and was surrounded every time she picked it up.

In midfield, Jill Roord, Danielle van de Donk and Stefanie van der Gragt made sure that Savannah DeMelo could not influence things going forward, and kept playing the ball around Lindsey Horan and Andi Sullivan. The second half was a different ball game altogether, with Lavelle coming on at halftime and Horan coming alive after her run-in with Van de Donk, but the Dutch had the lead going into half time because of how well they contained the USWNT’s creative players.

— Musarurwa

What comes next

Portugal and Vietnam finish Group E’s second matchday as much of the U.S. sleeps; if either team wins instead of drawing, it’ll create a very nervy final day. If Portugal wins, a U.S. loss and Dutch win would knock the four-time champions out at the group stage. If Vietnam wins, however, it would ensure that a draw or win would be enough to breach the round of 16.

It isn’t a comfortable position for one of the tournament favorites. However, it isn’t a crisis situation just yet… so long as there’s some evolution in the plans for the next match.

— Rueter

(Photo: MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

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