The U.S. women’s national team beat Canada 1-0 in its opening match of the SheBelieves Cup, but there wasn’t much satisfaction with the U.S. performance as manager Vlatko Andonovski said he was “disappointed” with the display.
The U.S. had the better of the play for much of the match, but was still tested by a Canada side missing top players such as striker Christine Sinclair and defender Kadeisha Buchanan. The U.S. prevailed on substitute Rose Lavelle‘s 79th minute winner, when an attempted clearance fell to her in the box, allowing her to lash the ball home. But Canada had some clear looks at goal as well, with midfielder Janine Beckie twice failing to convert with only goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to beat.
“When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed because I want us to score more goals,” Andonovski said. “And on top of that, if we allow any shots to goal, I’m not going to be happy and I thought that tonight they had a couple of good opportunities to score. We’re going to look into it. We’re going to look into a little bit deeper why that happened.”
Andonovski’s sentiments were echoed by U.S. captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who called the performance “sloppy,” though she also commended the U.S. for prevailing when not playing its best.
“This team prides itself on being able to find ways to win and sometimes we win pretty and sometimes we went ugly and tonight was one of those nights where we won ugly,” she said. “It’s important that when things aren’t going right, that we’re not vibing right, that we can find a way to win and we did that tonight, which is a good sign about this team’s mentality.”
With Canada clogging the middle, the U.S. repeatedly attacked the flanks, but still found it difficult to break through as the Reds’ backline held firm for most of the match. But Andonovski felt his side was lacking in precision rather than in ideas.
“We could have done a better job in the final third,” he said. “It was definitely not for lack of creativity, but I would say it was more about lack of execution. We created some good opportunities after a good build up, or we were able to break them down with good creativity, but we were not able to execute on it.”
It helped that with the game still tied 0-0 Andonovski was able to employ a triple substitution that would be the envy of any coach in the world, with Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Christen Press all entering the match around the 63rd minute. It paid off as the U.S. was able to crank the pressure up a notch, leading to Lavelle’s winner.
“You talk about sometimes not having depth in your team, but this team has depth on depth on depth,” Sauerbrunn said. “And it’s beyond the 23 that are actually here right now. The player pool in the US is very deep, and so if you can afford to bring players like that off the bench, then you’re doing something good.”
Andonovski did find some bright spots, especially in terms of his side’s defensive performance.
“One of the things that makes me happy from a defensive standpoint, was that they didn’t break us down to create the opportunity,” he said. “We gave them the ball, they create opportunity. We made a mistake, they create opportunities, so that’s the that’s the positive thing. But then why do we give the ball away? How all that happened was something that we’re gonna have to look into a little bit deeper.”