The Danger of Alex Morgan and other Storylines from USWNT’s Match Against Nigeria

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On Tuesday Night the U.S. Women’s National Team relied on superior possession and defense to beat Nigeria and ultimately conquer the group of death.

There were four main storylines as the match unfolded that led to the USWNT claiming victory in the hard fought match:

  1. Alex Morgan was Dangerous

For much of the previous two world cup matches, Morgan spent much of her time on the bench. In her first start in quite some time, (as well as the World Cup) she found herself making dangerous runs all night.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP5_AN-HXmA

Morgan sprinted sometimes down the middle of the field, while at times she found herself racing down either flank, attempting to catch Nigeria’s high line sleeping over the top. Her aggressiveness led to crosses to Abby Wambach for chances, as well as opportunities for her to score just like the example above.

This was a constant theme for much of her night against Nigeria. Unfortunately, the U.S had trouble linking up with her on those runs, due to various circumstances.

  1. Missed Opportunities in the Final Third

For a very large portion of the match the U.S. seemed to routinely find runners streaking behind the high Nigerian line. Everyone from Morgan to Meghan Klingenberg to Megan Rapinoe to even Tobin Heath found themselves making runs in various angles in behind the Nigerian defense looking for crosses and one v one encounters with Precious Dede, the Nigerian Keeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSzwuiiqRsM

Nigeria, for some reason, even set high defensive lines on set pieces, which left gaps of space just in front of the mouth of the goal.

The USWNT’s tactic of trying to attack the Nigerian back line over the top, lead to one of three outcomes when put in practice:

  • A Nigerian defender makes a great play and clears it away or gains possession,
  • The pass misses awry, and/or
  • A Nigerian defender fouls a U.S. attacker leading to a set piece.

 

  1. Set pieces

Quite often in the match, the U.S. found themselves with set pieces in dangerous spots in their offensive half.

Early on, the bulk of the first set pieces yielded very little results, as they had trouble figuring out how to attack the high Nigerian line.

Eventually, the U.S. began to exploit Nigeria’s high line on their set pieces, as they had in open play. This led to an occasionally dangerous connection that forced timely reactions from Dede.

To her credit, she found a way to get to each one except: Megan Rapinoe’s Cross to Abby Wambach for the lone U.S. goal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU_llIg-XUk

  1. The U.S. Defense and Possession

After the goal, the U.S. continued to press the backline of Nigeria, and continued to win free kicks and corner kicks for their troubles, until Nigerian defender Sarah Nnodim was sent off, in the second half.

Once she went out of the game, the Nigerians picked up their effort and pressed forward on attack knocking the US back into a defensive shell. The U.S. stopped attacking, opting instead to obtain and keep possession. This meant fighting to gain back from the outnumbered Nigerians, in the midst of Nigerian attempts at a possible comeback.

Each Nigerian attempt; however, was met with a clinical opposition throughout the match. Hope Solo didn’t have much to do outside of two or three moments of worry. (Like this for example)

The U.S. should be happy with their passing and possession, but will need to figure out how improve on their offense as they look forward to the knockout round.