It’s back. We’re back. The Matildas and USA keep playing against each other stoking up this beautiful, glorious rivalry. It’s everything we’ve hoped for, and this time round it looks no different. So time to ask your boss for an extended Friday lunch to catch this one.
There’s many areas of the park to be thinking of ahead of this match. But here are some essential areas the Matildas need to be thinking of, and how they can deal with what the US will be bringing.
Lovers of width, stayers on the last line of defence, that is the American front line.
There’s a good chance the moment the US even look to transition out of defence, there will be three forwards already next Kennedy and co, ready for that sweet, sweet ball out to the flanks. The flanks being the areas where they will nutty and dazzle you, put a ball over into the box, with a good handful of players ready to pounce, all aiming goalwards.
Meanwhile the Matildas defenders will be caught yelling at their midfielders for a little help help.
How the Matildas stack up: There’s a few options to potentially nullify this threat. The simplest option, and one the Tillies will very, very unlikely use, is parking the bus. No space to play in behind if the bus is already parked there.
Another option is making sure we only play with one high full back, so we have three defenders back and a defensive midfielder, likely KK, there to move back on the transition.
The last option? Just don’t lose the ball in a position where the US can spring a counter attack. This means if we happen to lose the ball, across the park the Tillies implement an immediate high press, leaving no time for whichever American to lift their head and pick out the corners for the likes of Rapinoe, Heath, Morgan or Press.
ERTZ IT HURTZ
The defender-come-midfielder is the key to this US side.
Covering ground as if it was a skating rink and she doesn’t know how to put the brakes on yet, expect Julie Ertz to be everywhere. She’s their ball winner. When we turn over the ball, it’s likely going to be because of her hard work. Working through the guts of the field, she can win the ball and spring an attack before you can turn your head.
Add on the midfielder is a killer with headers off corners or free kicks. You just don’t want the ball near her if you’re against her.
How the Matildas stack up: There’s not too much you can do when you come face to face with a world class player other than simply play around them.
The Matildas love to use the flanks anyway. Whilst under Milicic it looks like the channels through the centre of the field will be used a bit more, making sure to not hesitate in those areas for Ertz to pounce will be essential.
Working the ball to the flanks will be looking super tempting, add in our pace then it’s a quality option.
Unlike previous US sides built on their defence, only a disillusioned person would claim there is the same composure and confidence in the current back four.
Whether this is a product of injuries, a changing of the guard, tweaking with tactics of a back three to back four too much or something else entirely, this doesn’t have the same sense of being impenetrable as their 2015 edition.
Interestingly for this tour, Ali Krieger comes back into the fold after an extended holiday from the US set up. Considering right back has been one of the side’s sore points, (love you Sonnett, but you’re not an out and out fullback buddy) Krieger may have the call up to ensure the Matildas flying wingers don’t play havoc.
How the Matildas stack up: The key to this is to not be too cocky with thinking US can’t defend. They can, and have ground out results plenty of times.
Add on Ertz working hard in the midfield, and generally the sides athleticism to cover ground as a whole, it will still be a tough task breaking them down.
However. The Matildas definitely have space to exploit down the flanks. On form, the Matildas forwards are literally flying. It’ll take a very good side anywhere to keep them at bay for a full 90 minutes.