USWNT vs. Czech Republic: Three things we learned in a disappointing scoreless draw

The United States national team kicked off the 2022 SheBelieves Cup with a scoreless draw against Czech Republic on Thursday night. The seventh edition of the event will also feature matches against New Zealand and Iceland with games on Feb. 20 and Feb. 23. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski named a 23 player roster ahead of the tournament that largely features younger players, with the goal of the coaching staff evaluate players in high-level environments.

So let’s take a look at three things we learned from the opening match against Czech Republic

1. Offseason rust evident

With the exception of Catarina Macario, the majority of the tournament roster is made up from players representing NWSL clubs that are currently in preseason. 

The struggle to finish in the final third was a theme throughout the match, but being out of form can only be considered a partial reason for lack of goal scoring. New players developing chemistry with each other combined with a strong organized defense from Czech Republic left few answers in attack for the USWNT. It may seem unfair to criticize the USWNT for not creating enough opportunities in a match where they outshot their opponents 18-6, but with a skill edge as big as the U.S. has, the numbers can get much more lopsided than that.

The team is also missing several veteran players in Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe, who have not been called into camp due to either injury or lack of recent extended playing time at the professional level. So the line, which was led by Macario, Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh is relatively untested at this level.

The expectations at the national team level are absurdly high though. After headlines around the lack of more experienced players involved in the tournament, the team will need to score some goals in their next match if they’re going to stop any storylines about how the attack is lacking in creativity and unready to take over for the old guard before they get started. 

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2. Individual sparks

Despite the goalless introduction to SheBelieves, a core of Andonovski’s next gen roster was able to get time out on the pitch in the first international match of the year. 

Forward Trinity Rodman, the 2021 NWSL rookie of the year, was named to the full roster after initially being called up as a training camp player after injuries to Lindsey Horan and Abby Dahlkemper. Rodman made her senior national team debut off the bench for the USWNT in the second half, coming on at the hour mark.

With Rodman in the fold, along with  the 21 year old Smith who earned the start as well and was heavily involved in the attack, recording three shots with two on target, the USWNT could be set for the next decade, provided those two begin turning opportunities into goals.

3. More Lavelle and Macario

Rose Lavelle and Macario dominated the attack for the USWNT as the duo earned starts for the match. Each player recorded four shots, with Macario earning three on target and a place among the top five USWNT players in pass completion with 79% while creating six chances. 

Lavelle has been with playing at the senior level for years now, is a 2019 World Cup champion, and should be considered the present instead of the future of the USWNT. However, if the idea is to give more opportunities to younger players to thrive and to keep an eye on development, there could be a special dynamic brewing between Lavelle and Macario. 

Lavelle’s ability to burst forward from midfield combined with Macario’s skill on the ball seem to be a match made in heaven. As with everything else from the opener of the tournament, however, the U.S. will need to put the ball in the net for all the seeds they’re planting now to flourish in the coming months.

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