The U.S. Women’s National Team Avoids Upset in 3-1 Victory Over The Netherlands

USA Starting XI:

Goalkeeper – Alyssa Naeher

Defense – Allie Long, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston

Midfield – Carli Lloyd (Captain), Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan

Forward – Alex Morgan

Subs: Ashlyn Harris (GK), Ali Krieger (D), Christen Press (F), Megan Rapinoe (M), Crystal Dunn (F), Samantha Mewis (M), Emily Sonnett (D)

The Netherlands Starting XI:

De Keeper (Goalkeeper) – Sari van Veenendaal

De Verdediger (Defense) – Desiree van Lunteren, Stefanie van der Gragt, Mandy van den Berg (Captain), Dominique Janssen

De Middenvelder (Midfield) – Anouk Dekker, Sherida Spitse, Danielle van de Donk

De Spits (Striker) – Shanice van de Sanden, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens

De Vervangers (Subs) – Angela Christ (GK), Loes Geurts (GK), Merel van Dongen (D), Tessel Middag (M), Renée Slegers (M), Kika van Es (D), Kelly Zeeman (D), Jackie Groenen (M), Lineth Beerensteyn (ST), Eshly Bakker (ST), Ellen Jansen (ST), Siri Worm (D)

The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) arrived in Atlanta off a 9-0 win against Thailand just days ago. The great thing about being a fan of the women’s side is that no matter who they play, you automatically expect them to win. Let’s face it, our girls are the best in the world for a reason. What happened in Brazil (losing to Sweden in penalties) was extremely unfortunate and losing the world’s best goalkeeper afterward was pretty bad as well. During the next round of friendlies, it will be interesting to see how the U.S. handles their new challenges.

People have been making a huge deal about Midfielder Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the anthem. But today, she did so without a comment, or reaction from the audience (which is what should happen anyway).

Just a minute and a half into the game, the OranjeLeeuwinnen (The Orange Lionesses) found a once in a lifetime opportunity against the USA; a 1 v 1 with the Keeper. Dutch striker Shanice van de Sanden curled a beautiful ball into the side netting under pressure. Not even two minutes in and U.S. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher failed her first test. But thus are the growing pains when your legendary GK gets kicked off the team.

USA v Netherlands
Holland’s Shanice van de Sanden scores the opening goal of the match (Hakim Wright/The Peach Review®).

It was just two minutes later that Dutch Forward Lieke Martens received a beautifully placed ball in the box but chipped it just over the net.

The U.S. finally saw their chance when Carli Lloyd fired a rocket towards goal but van Veenendaal was there to block it and cover it. This was already shaping up to be a beautiful game since the U.S. were playing down a goal so early.

In the 14’ Anouk Dekker clipped Carli Lloyd from behind for the first warning of the game. Aside from that, the ladies on both sides had been playing very clean (very physical, but clean). Holland’s Stefanie van der Gragt took a pretty big hit and stayed down for about a minute, which allowed the USWNT to collect themselves.

In the 18’ a long ball was sent towards van de Sanden in an open area. It was clear Becky Sauerbrunn was no match for the Dutch striker as she was constantly being outran. This time, van de Sanden outran her, dribbled by her, and delivered a stiff arm that Emmitt Smith would be proud of. Fortunately, it didn’t translate into a goal but it was another solid chance for the Dutch.

In the 28’ Lieke Martens found her way on a counter attack and attempted to curl a ball in to van de Sanden but the U.S. defense was able to clear it.

The Dutch had two things working to their advantage in the first half: size and speed. Van de Sanden (7) and Lieke Martens (11) were pushing the U.S. defense to the brink of destruction. Never have I seen the opposition look so slow. But then the 35’ happened, and when a Dutch defender whiffed on a clearance, Tobin Heath took the ball and found Carli Lloyd for the easy tap in to tie the game at 1-1.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-11-12-17-pm
Becky Sauerbrunn had her hands full with Holland’s pacey striker Shanice van de Sanden (Hakim Wright/The Peach Review®).

I wasn’t the only one that noticed our D being put to the test, as Coach Jill Ellis subbed out Whitney Engen to bring in Ali Krieger in the 36’.

Alex Morgan attempted to take the girls up 2-1 but on a questionable no-call, was pulled down while shooting in the box, which whipped straight passed the face of goal to go out-of-bounds. This was by far the most I’ve seen our girls work in a first half in a long time.

Christen Press and Emily Sonnett were subbed in during halftime for Alex Morgan and Julie Johnston.

The U.S. side came out flying in the second half and found an opportunity early when two shots hit the side bar and finally went out-of-bounds. Soon after that another controversial call occurred. Two U.S. players were in the Dutch box and a shot deflected off the back of a Dutch player on the ground. It was called an Own Goal on Holland’s Mandy van den Berg, the team captain. Noticeably frustrated she pleaded with the referee along with teammates (hoping for a offside call) but it was all for naught.

The second half looked like a completely different U.S. team. They turned up the intensity a few notches and it really made a difference.

The USA's defense huddles together to make a plan. One Nation. One Team. (Hakim Wright/The Peach Review®).
The USA’s defense huddles together to make a plan. One Nation. One Team. (Hakim Wright/The Peach Review®).

It took 61 total minutes but the first yellow card was finally given to Holland’s Vivianne Miedema.

In the 64’ minute Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe came in for the U.S. Once Rapinoe stepped on the field you heard a mix of boos and applause (the boos are really uncalled for).

Whether the crowd was in full support or not, Megan Rapinoe served a beautiful ball in to Carli Lloyd who flicked it to Allie Long for the goal. The USWNT now led 3-1.

In the 78’ the flying duchess van de Sanden flew up the right flank and put in a low shot across goal which Naeher was able to swat away. In a move that raised eyebrows the Oranje subbed out their main weapon in van de Sanden and replaced her with Lineth Beerensteyn.

The match was pretty uneventful after that. Without the Oranjeleeuwinnen’s main threat (van de Sanden) their offense was pretty dull. I questioned USA Manager Jill Ellis about The Netherlands’ main threat and the changes she made to contain her:

“Tell Kling to pick it up! (sarcastic laughter) She’s got a lot of pace. We anticipated her on the left side and they played her on the right. During halftime I talked about two people challenging her because not only does she have pace but she’s good on the ball. Whether it’s a center mid or a wide player or another center back, somebody needed to come out and support the wide player. So I think we saw that and dealt with her a lot better in the second half.”

I spoke with the speedy forward to ask her how it felt to score the first goal against the #1 team in the world and in the opening minutes of the match:

“It was amazing! In the first minutes I scored a nice goal, but it was so quick! I need to recover quickly because we’re in a game and a new moment comes really fast. Now I can think about my goal but in a game, you need to go!”

I couldn’t let the day end without getting Megan Rapinoe to myself. So I asked her “With that massive booing that took place when you came in. How did you move on from that to making that huge assist for USA’s third goal?”

“I’d be lying if I said that I don’t hear the crowds and the noise but I do. I do and yeah it stinks that it happens but it happens. But I’m used to it whether we’re playing an away match or a match like this, I can deal with it. That’s when professionalism kicks in and I just play my game. It was a mix of boos and cheers but it’s just part of the game.”

The match ended USA 3, The Netherlands 1. Things were looking scarce for the girls in the opening part of the match, but they were able to pull through in the second half and pull out the win. The crowd was measured at 15,652 in the Georgia Dome.

USA’s Jill Ellis was asked what she thought about their opponents. Her answer was three simple words: “Man they’re big!” USA have two more friendlies next month while The Netherlands prepare for Germany in October on their path to EURO 2017.

-Jon J.

Photo: Hakim Wright

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