It was the first game in two months for the United States Women’s National Team, and they will only play a game that counts in a month’s time. There was an essential element to Thursday night’s friendly, however, and it was obvious that coach Vlatko Andonovski wanted to make sure this was handled before anyone reached the locker room. So he spoke to midfielder Lindsey Horan immediately after the Americans took the 1-0 victory over Portugal.
“I told her she was a freak on the pitch,” Andonovsky said afterwards.
He’s been in charge for less than two years and has yet to handle the USWNT in a major competition. So even with an 18-0-1 record so far, it seems a bit premature to call Andonovski a good national team coach. But his zeal to assure Horan that she had played the role of defensive midfielder typically assumed by Julie Ertz – the No.6, in football parlance – suggested he might be a good coach to play for. this level.
Andonovski praised Horan (pictured below) for excelling in “aerial challenges, intercepting balls, controlling the game from the lower half of the court”. And she did it all as needed. It just wasn’t necessary that often.
Portugal played a low block for most of the game, rarely owning the ball, let alone advancing it past the halfway line. It is not uncommon for USWNT opponents to find themselves at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to talent, which makes up the majority of them. The No.6’s role is high, however, in matches against teams such as Sweden, the opening opponents of the Olympics on July 21.
It is not known if Horan will be in this position against Sweden. Ertz sprained the MCL on her right knee in her first NWSL game a month ago for the Chicago Red Stars, and Andonovski said he expected her to be in good health in time. for the Olympics.
What is certain, however, is that the USWNT has an almost unreasonable depth in every field position except this one. Tobin Heath, who started on the right side of the front line in the 2019 World Cup campaign, came out with an ankle injury. Christen Press occupied this place against Portugal. It has 145 caps and 60 international goals. Carli Lloyd replaced forward Alex Morgan in the 73rd minute; Lloyd has scored more goals than all but five of the women in game history. Defenseman Tierna Davidson came on at the same time; she excelled in her only 2019 World Cup start and can play left-back or central defense.
When Ertz (pictured below) was injured, however, there was no such obvious response.
There was reason to believe, however, that Horan’s gifts might well translate into this position.
“Julie, of course, will always be such big shoes to fill,” midfielder Sam Mewis told reporters on a post-game Zoom call. “But I’m proud of Lindsey.”
Horan started his career as a striker for Paris Saint-Germain, then moved on to an attacking midfielder position after moving to the Portland Thorns. Despite being one of the best in the world, named the NWSL’s 2018 MVP, she was in and out of the starting lineup for the United States because the competition for positions is so extreme. .
Horan started four of the seven 2019 World Cup games, while Mewis started five and Rose Lavelle all but one. The latter two gave Andonovski no reason to believe that former coach Jill Ellis was wrong in deploying the pair so often in attacking midfield positions; Mewis, in fact, scored the game-winning goal against Portugal with a clear header from the Press corner.
Expanding his repertoire to include the defensive role will give Horan an additional route into the starting lineup. His ability to cover the pitch, his vision and his ability to perform the kind of passes that initiate forward moves allow Horan to play the post like Xabi Alonso once did for Real Madrid.
The only question is how effective Horan could be in disrupting opposition attacks.
Horan got his first chance against Portugal in the 8th minute and surgically slipped the ball, pushing it past Lavelle for a shot that led to a dangerous free-kick opportunity for the United States. maneuver but failed, leaving the door open for a push that a better team than Portugal could have sanctioned. A dozen minutes later, Horan skillfully disarmed another opposition counterattack.
“She is never satisfied. She always wants more, ”said Andonovski. “The first thing she asked was when we could watch the video.
“This is what allows us to improve.