US Women’s Soccer Team Now Far From Invincible

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There was a time in the not-too-distant past that the U.S. women’s national team was the baddest team on the planet. In no other sport was one team so much better than everyone else.

The bloom began to slip off the rose when, after four gold medals in five Olympics, the USWNT failed to get out of the quarterfinals in 2016. They rebounded in the World Cup, winning in France in 2019. But in this past World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, the “best soccer team in the world” didn’t get past the Round of 16.

Now, even the U.S.’s Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) dominance is in question. That’s following a shocking Monday night result in Carson, California. For only the second time in 43 matches, and for the first time in 14 years, the U.S. lost to Mexico, 2-0. It was also the first time in 80 matches that the American women lost to a CONCACAF opponent at home. This was also the first loss for the U.S. with interim head coach Twila Kilgore in charge.

After the U.S. came up so woefully short at the World Cup, then-manager Vlatko Andonovski left the team and returned to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Kilgore took over on an interim basis, and she will remain at the helm until new head coach Emma Hayes takes over in May.

FIFA still has the U.S. as the No. 2-ranked team in the world, and expectations are still high for the USWNT at the Paris Olympics this summer. Soccer online sportsbooks have the U.S. as the betting favorite. But in terms of the inaugural W Gold Cup, their road became more challenging.

The loss to Mexico has the Americans finishing second in their group. They still move on, but they will now face a group stage winner in the quarterfinals.

“It just shows how far the game is coming and there’s no easy games anymore,” Kilgore said. “If we don’t take of business and we don’t execute, this is to be expected. We’ll step up and take ownership of that.”

Waiting for Emma Hayes

When new permanent manager Emma Hayes was named back in November, it was also announced that she would finish her Super League season in England, where she manages Chelsea FC. At that point, she will join the U.S. and have two months to prepare for the Olympics.

With the upset on Monday, and a much tougher road ahead, that decision is looking suspect. The U.S. women are clearly not past the inconsistent play that cost them in the World Cup, and two months might not be enough to cure what ails them. If there is a cure.

Defender Kelly O’Hara, who earned her first cap 14 years ago, said the team felt “stuck” within certain formations over the past few years, and the Mexico performance was the same. 

Forward Alex Morgan, who also earned her first cap 14 years ago, said, “This wasn’t nearly our best. We broke down way too easily and Mexico came to play.”

And there is some of the problem for the U.S. right there. They are relying on older players to make plays and assume leadership roles, when this team will only go as far as their youth will take them. Neither O’Hara or Morgan started for the U.S. on Monday, so there has been an attempt to finally turn the page. Now they just need the younger women to step up and take control.

Tuesday night, two more matches from group play take place, and has Colombia and Brazil as heavy favorites to get wins and advance to the quarters from Group B.

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