USWNT Gets 0-0 Draw Against Australia
KASHIMA, Japan – In three games at the Tokyo Olympic football tournament, the United States scored some pretty and poacher goals and, sort of, five offside goals.
On Tuesday, the Americans didn’t score any goals, and it turned out that was exactly what they needed. A 0-0 draw with Australia on a wet and foggy night saw the United States – a favorite for medals whose generational dominance was questioned last week – to the round of 16 of the tournament and a quarter-final against the Netherlands on Friday in Yokohama.
The Americans’ fixture against the Netherlands was confirmed as the team were due to return to their hotel in Tokyo after drawing a methodical and professional draw with Australia. The Netherlands were the tournament’s strongest team: the Dutch beat China 8-2 on Tuesday to bring their three-game goal tally to 21.
Tuesday’s result was not a vintage performance in the United States, nor maybe even a popular performance in the locker room. Three days after his side erupted offensively in a 6-1 win over New Zealand, US coach Vlatko Andonovski took over against Australia.
The United States deployed a defensive tactical plan from the first minute and never wavered, organizing what was in effect a fortified wall of defenders and midfielders and challenging Australia to try and play balls through. above his star striker, Sam Kerr. When Australia did, the United States had little trouble retrieving the ball, neutralizing the danger and controlling the flow of the game.
While effective as a plan – Kerr, Australia’s most dangerous player, didn’t have a shot on goal – it was a strategy designed to elicit attacks and then push them back, not to mount them on the other end : a plan for a draw, which Andonovski knew he would clinch second place in the group, but not necessarily a plan for a victory.
The American players – savvy and experienced pros from front to back – just went out and executed it.
“It was a tactical move by Vlatko for us to take a little more conservative defensive behavior, and really allow them to get impatient, play long and give it back to us,” said forward Alex Morgan, who recognized the wisdom of the strategy even as she seemed to smile when Andonovsky was asked about it during his post-match press conference.
“Disciplined, professional – what we had to do,” said defender Becky Sauerbrunn’s tactics.
And if the goal was to frustrate Australia, or at the very least brutally arm it, it worked.
“We didn’t want to be branded,” Andonovski said in a neutral tone. “It was one of the plans.”
Chances were: Morgan failed to convert an end-to-end breakaway in the eighth minute, and Australia’s Mary Fowler – a kick-off substitute for an injured Caitlin Foord – hit the crossbar with a head 10 minutes later.
Morgan even put the ball into the net with a header in the 31st minute, but it was ruled offside – America’s fifth ruled offside in two games – after a lengthy video review.
As the odds dried up in the second half, a sense of resignation replaced any glimmer of drama.
“Eventually I felt like the two teams were sort of sitting down,” Morgan said, “and it turned into a professional game and moved on.”
For a team from the United States that were humiliated in an opening loss to Sweden, then came together and a little confidence with six goals (and four offside that didn’t count) in of a victory over New Zealand on Saturday, a tie – however frustrating – against a physical and potentially dangerous Australian team, it was like a job well done.
In the end, Andonovsky turned around and congratulated his assistants as if he had won. The players did not celebrate. There will be, they hope, other nights for this. For their coach, that would be great. Tuesday it was just a matter of getting a result and moving on.
“Coming into this game, we came up with the idea that the first objective was to win the game, and the second objective was to achieve a good professional performance,” said Andonovski. “Obviously we didn’t do the first one, but we did the second, which was very important because it ultimately put us in the same place. “
The Matilda, as the Australian team are called, had to wait: they finished third in the group, and had to wait three hours later to find out their opponent in the quarter-finals: the British team GB.
Team GB won their first-round group with a 1-1 draw against Canada on Tuesday, a result achieved by an 85th-minute goal for Scotland’s Caroline Weir.
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