The United States women's national team didn't start the World Cup the way they wanted to, and their performance left plenty to be desired but in the end the job was done and three points is still three points. And thanks to Nigeria's stunning 3-3 draw against Sweden, USA sits at the top of their group and are heavy favorites to get out of this year's Group of Death.
I'm short on time, so this will be short but here are some basic tactical observations from USA's 3-1 win over Australia to open the World Cup.
Final Third Efficiency
As you can see the USWNT were forced out wide and barely were able to get anything going inside the penalty box. Some of that has to be credited to Australia's defense for keeping their shape and their defensive line very organized. The other side of that story was Jill Elli's deployment of players were pretty wrong and very sadly, the will to win will probably be the reason this team has any success in this tournament rather than due to any tactical or talent superiority.
Lack of Width
Megan Rapinoe actually does provide width, as you can see from her passing chart and heat maps below.
Rapinoe's spacing draws defenders out, as you cannot afford to give her much time on he ball which gives the rest of the team more space and time to seek for goals. The problem though is that while Rapinoe was able to provide that width consistently, the lack of variety from the other side made it a little too easy and predictable to anticipate. Just look at Christen Press who worked the other side:
This is no fault of hers as Press isn't a wide player and is being forced to adapt to suit whatever Ellis' game strategy is. (Honestly, I could not tell you what their game plan was.) Of course, Press found more joy and a beautiful goal to boot once she moved more centrally.
But because Press doesn't spread the field, the responsibility of width then belongs to the fullback which is Ali Krieger. But from the game and as you can see in the heat maps, Krieger rarely ventured forward to help create the space for her team.
Good things happened when for the US when Krieger got forward and overlapped Press as they began overloading one side and drawing Australian defenders out of their shape. Jill Ellis will need to address this when they face off against Sweden on Friday and probably move Press up top with Leroux or Wambach and put in Tobin Heath or Heather O'Reilly to provide this team with better flank play.
Both teams really liked their match up going down the left side. That's understandable from the US but I hope there's a better sense of balance against Sweden. If nothing else to be less predictable and keep the Swedes guessing.