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Frustrated but victorious USWNT as resolute Portugal provide pre-Olympic test

Thursday night was shaping up to be frustrating for the United States Women’s National Team, which entered the final 15 minutes of their friendly against Portugal in a 0-0 stalemate.

Despite the dominant possession, the United States had created few quality chances for most of the friendly in Houston. But Sam Mewis unexpectedly found herself unmarked inside the six-yard penalty area on a 76th-minute corner and made no mistakes with his header to give USWNT a 1 victory. -0.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski lined up his strongest possible starting lineup against the Portuguese, but his all-star group didn’t cause as many problems as expected against an unknown opponent.

Horan gets the first shot to replace Ertz

For the USWNT, Julie Ertz is someone who cannot be completely replaced. Unfortunately for Andonovski, he may have to do his best to find a replacement.

Ertz suffered an MCL sprained right knee last month during the NWSL game, and his status for the Olympics is uncertain. As the number 6 jack of all trades in the USWNT, Ertz protects the back line, wins balls with his tenacious work pace and throws attacks. There isn’t another player in the pool who can do what she is doing.

On Thursday Andonovski gave a preview of what a USWNT setup might look like without Ertz – and the experience didn’t go very well. Lindsey Horan, who normally plays as a box-to-box midfielder, returned to the waiting position, where she performed an admirable impersonation of Ertz in a role she played for the United States. in the past.

“I told her she was a monster on the pitch,” Andonovsky said after the game, “aerial challenges, intercepting balls and controlling play from all areas of the pitch.”

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Horan’s comfort on the ball is unmatched, but she also showed some of the ball-winning courage that Ertz so often contributes. It will be interesting to see if Andonovski opts for a more natural No.6 like Andi Sullivan in the team’s next two games against Jamaica and Nigeria, or gives another player who normally plays elsewhere like Emily Sonnett a chance. or Tierna Davidson, the position.

USWNT struggles to break up Portugal

The USWNT are more than used to breaking up teams that sit still and normally the team has enough quality to do that.

Against a disciplined and determined Portuguese back line on Thursday, Andonovski’s side struggled.

Despite having the lion’s share of possession in the first half, the United States failed to create breathtaking chances, with the Christen Press volley firing a foot of Ines Pereira the best of the group.

Things improved in the second half in terms of creating opportunities, but Alex Morgan was later guilty of missing two excellent chances before Carli Lloyd’s late goal was pulled after an out flag. -game has been lifted.

While they might have been frustrated, the United States also had a useful drill ahead of an Olympic tournament which will see plenty of opponents settle in like Portugal did.

“It was my post-game speech,” said Andonovski, “that’s what we’re going to see a number of times at the Olympics.”

Press added: “I think it’s extremely valuable. We are facing different types of opponents in preparation for these Olympics and I think the style of play we have faced tonight is something we absolutely could see. “

USWNT starts with the strongest team possible

Andonovski will have some tough decisions to make after his team’s three friendlies, as he will name his 18-man Olympic roster at the end of the team’s camp.

As for his final picks, the coach won’t have much to say about Thursday’s game movie.

Andonovski opted for his strongest formation against Portugal and did not introduce any substitutes until the 73rd minute.

The coach could have tried to replicate the Olympic group stage, where he will likely start with his strongest team in his team’s first game against Sweden before turning his team in subsequent games against New Zealand and Australia.

Expect plenty of bubble players to take their chances on Sunday against Jamaica and against Nigeria on Wednesday.

“We will see a rotation,” said Andonovski. “We have to be careful from a management point of view, but there are also some things that we want to see in the next few games that will be another reason why we are going to turn the players.”

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