After Thursday’s wild 5-3 win over Australia, USWNT fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from last night’s clash with Belgium. Maybe they’d win comfortably. Maybe they’d play out a painfully boring draw. Who know, maybe Belgium would get lucky off a set piece and come away with a shock win. There were definitely question marks hanging over the Americans heading into the game.
That the US managed to rout Belgium 6-0 isn’t a total surprise, but it wasn’t immediately obvious before kickoff that that’s where things would be headed.
So, what insight can we glean from last night?
Christen Press Is Settling Into A New Role
Throughout her career, Press seems to have felt happiest and more at home leading the line. You can see this during her time with the Chicago Red Stars, when she would sometimes have to put the team on her back in order to get a result. Consequently, she has occasionally seemed ill at ease being a support player in a forward line. At times that has limited her opportunities to get national team minutes— when you’re used to being the star forward, dropping back to support the likes of Alex Morgan can be an uncomfortable fit.
But if last night was any indication, Press may be adjusting to a new role. She didn’t get on the scoresheet, but she did tally three assists on the night. She was key to making the USWNT’s attack work— and it was work she carried out fairly quietly.
Press can still lead a line when called on, but she’s demonstrated now that she can function in support roles. That could very well make the difference for the US at the World Cup this summer.
Lindsey Horan May Be The US’ Most Important Player In France
The 2018 NWSL MVP has already established herself as a key component of the USWNT’s midfield. Last night we saw what makes her so valuable to her teams— her versatility.
Throughout her club career, she’s played everywhere from defensive midfield to target forward. She’s more or less settled into a box-to-box role, but she can— and will— do whatever’s expected of her in any given game.
At 5’9”, you wouldn’t necessarily think of her as the kind of player to deliver towering headers off of corner kicks. But that’s exactly what she managed last night, scoring the US’ third goal in the 26th minute off a corner from Christen Press. That’s what was needed of her in that moment, so she did the thing.
That is precisely why she’s going to be such a key component of the US’ World Cup campaign. With so many specialists in the USWNT, Horan’s willingness and ability to serve as a Swiss Army Knife could be the thing that gets the Americans a fourth star.
Oh Hey, Carli Lloyd Is Back
After being relegated to a super-sub role in recent USWNT appearances, there was plenty of speculation that Lloyd’s time as a guaranteed starter for the national team was over.
Lloyd clearly didn’t like the sound of that.
After working her way to near-top fitness and making a case for herself in training camp, Lloyd played a full 90 minutes against Belgium. Ellis’ faith in her clearly paid off; Lloyd scored the first two goals of the game early in the first half, giving the US full command of the proceedings. She was also credited with the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal in the second half, a product of her switching seamlessly between the #9 and #10 roles.
A lot of USWNT fans— myself included— believed that the time had come for Lloyd to magnanimously step aside for a younger generation of attackers. Last night Lloyd sent a clear message to those of us: she ain’t done yet.
BONUS: Rose Lavelle Is Hurt And We’re All Trying Not To Panic
(I’m still panicking a little bit, to be honest.)
What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments!