Buzzwords for the USWNT/North Korea Game

Let’s try something new. Instead of doing player ratings after each USWNT match (because each player would have gotten a 1 after the first half [kidding] and a 10 after the second [kidding again], we’ll try thinking of buzzwords that help sum up each player’s performance. So here goes:


Hope Solo: Unruffled. North Korea didn’t really test the agility of Solo’s reportedly suspect right arm with long-range efforts. Solo wasn’t called upon often, but when she was, she parried shots away with sharpness and confidence and just that smoldering Solo-like intensity.

Ali Krieger: Calm. Probably Definitely her best national team game yet. Early in the first half Krieger provided service to O’Reilly on the right flank. When North Korea began bunkering, she dropped back into defense and manned the position well – even when the defense began to cave under growing pressure. There was a reason why North Korea didn’t bother pressing up the right flank. Her crossing was also more on point than not. It was her initial lob that resulted in Buehler’s goal, after all. Great game.

Christie Rampone: Satisfactory. Not a great performance, but not a horrific one either. Rampone deserves credit for regrouping the defense in the second half, as the communication definitely seemed like it had improved. Still just a meh outing, which means there’s still things to be desired from the veteran center-back.

Rachel Buehler: Resilient. Buehler had a difficult first half, trying to help cover for Breakers teammate LePeilbet on the left. In doing so, she got caught out of position and left a gap immediately in front of Solo which North Korea managed not to exploit. In the second half she looked more comfortable and less underwhelmed. The goal was a nice moment as well. She’ll continue to be a threat in the attack, as she always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Amy LePeilbet: Liability. LePeilbet’s improved second half performance wasn’t enough to gloss over the first half. The natural center back’s inability to cut and turn became apparent, just like it had in the England friendly. In the last 20 minutes of the first half, Kim Su Gyong had her beat. It was Marie-Eve Nault-level bad. Cheney’s intervention (and the U.S.’ control of possession) helped fix things in the second half, but that left-back position looks to be a trouble area. LePeilbet just isn’t a left-back.

Heather O’Reilly: Quiet. The consummate work horse showed flashes of vintage HAO; she combined well with Krieger on the overlap in the first 10 minutes and also served up a particularly beautiful cross to Wambach in the first 15 minutes of the second half. But besides that, she was rather anonymous.

Shannon Boxx: Taxed. Boxx looked exhausted, just as she did in the first Japan game. And possibly for similar reasons: Boxx assumed a mostly defensive role in both games, and got absolutely inundated with pressure in the first half of each. She lacked the sharpness to help turn possession for the U.S. in the first half, and by the second half, North Korea had stepped off. Still a conundrum.

Carli Lloyd: Improved. More errant passes and misreads in the first half. But again like in the Japan friendlies, Lloyd bounced back and help the U.S. control the midfield in the second half. As a result, North Korea quit pressing up the center which allowed Lloyd more time on the ball to make better decisions. While not being excessively productive, she helped marshal the middle third. She does have a scorching shot on her; you just wish she’d show it more often.

Lauren Cheney: Integral. Fantastic performance. It seemed (anyone have confirmation?) that each and every one of Cheney’s shots was on frame. There’s this interesting OptaFranz stat, and at least half of those shots must have been come from Cheney. Granted, her shots in the first half were all driven directly into the goalkeeper, but the fact that she actually got them on frame means a lot for a team that has had recent issues doing just that. Sundhage put Cheney at outside mid for that precise reason: her ability to shoot, and shoot with accuracy and power. The fact that mobility isn’t one of her playing characteristics isn’t an issue. Every time Cheney got a glimpse of a look, she took the shot (and none sailed over the crossbar!). Her ability to track back and help defend should also be noted. Cheney’s tenacity alone should keep her in the starting line-up.  

Abby Wambach: Adaptive. Wambach had a frustratingly quiet first half. Her central midfielders weren’t getting her involved, and she had a difficult time finding space to work in when they did. In the second half she shifted to the wing and it worked. Wambach really showcased her skill on the ball, as well as her ability to cross. So she used to be a striker, then she became a no. 10, and now she’s a winger? If she keeps providing assists like she did for Cheney’s goal, she can be whatever she wants.  

Amy Rodriguez: Latecomer. It took about 60 minutes, but A-Rod finally looked dangerous when she began combining with her fellow forwards. Her speed helped flummox a tiring North Korean defense, and her movement looked good. The thing is it took about 60 minutes.


Alex Morgan: Hungry. All Morgan needs is one touch, and she can create something out of nothing. It didn’t quite happen on Tuesday, but if she remains aggressive and elusive, she’ll get her goal.

Megan Rapinoe: (Almost) Vindicated. From all intents and purposes, Rapinoe takes rejection well. Her goal was rightly called off (even though the contact seemed to be incidentally simultaneous rather than intentional). She’ll be a good weapon to call upon off the bench, as she’s clearly capable of moments of individualistic flair.


Pia Sundhage: Correct. Time to eat crow. Well, kind of. I mean I never really questioned Sundhage’s Cheney-over-Rapinoe decision as a positional move. The timing of it just seemed a bit weird, and it made one wonder if A-Rod was going to slip into the left mid role instead. The switch paid dividends for the team, however, and judging by her attempt to fight off a smug smile in her post-match interview, she knew it.

Immediately following the Mexico friendly, Lauren Barker and I were talking about how easy it is to scout this team and joked that once the World Cup rolled around, Sundhage was going to fool everyone, drop one of her favorites, and try something new. Who are we kidding, we told ourselves. But hey! It happened! And it worked!

(Also, apparently all it took was a complaint from Cheney and Sundhage was convinced. C’mon Alex, all you have to do is ASK! )

And that’s the thing. Sundhage has gotten criticized for playing the same way over and over again, but then raises eyebrows when she actually does shake things up.

She sticks to her guns (like deciding not to drop LePeilbet at the half, which I had screamed for on Twitter not thinking that that likely would have torpedoed her confidence even more). Carolina Morace stayed the course in a similar way against Germany (save for giving the hook to Nault, of course) and earned praise for it.

And then there’s Sundhage’s jolly, nonchalant, eternally sunny personality. It’s an easy target, sure, and sometimes you kind of want to see some fire on the sideline. If your players are sucking, tell them they’re sucking!  Kick a signboard or something, right? But that’s just it: the players truly seem to like her, and there appears to a genuine tranquility in and around the camp.    

Sundhage can’t win for losing, but she can definitely win for winning.

18 thoughts on “Buzzwords for the USWNT/North Korea Game

  1. Soccer

    Player of the Game: Ali Krieger.she was the ONLY defender that didn’t look shaky and was TRULY sooo solid and got forward a decent amount. I have to give it to her since she was spot on the entire game, and yes by far her best performance of ur national team career. She LITERALLY was the only person that was making DECENT accurate passes out of defense.

    The reason there was improvement into the 2nd half….damn Boxx and Lloyd FINALLY took care of the ball and actually WON tackles. Also Cheney came back in defense to double team with Amy more.

    Again…..put Stephanie Cox in there! She’s not as physical as LePeilbet but she has WC experience and is left footed

    Like Julie Foudy or Ian said, the back 4 don’t communicate….all the games I’ve seen in person….you really never hear Buehler, LePeilbet, Rampone ever TALK. Theres definitely a lack of communication.

    How about this for a lineup::::
    GK Solo
    LB Cox
    CB Buehler
    CB Rampone
    RB Krieger
    LM Cheney
    DM Lloyd
    OM Wambach
    RM OReilly
    LF Morgan
    RF Rodriguez
    This lineup allows for Wambach to see more of the ball….Abby NEEDS the ball

    Personally I think Boxx needs to be substituted, she’s just several steps behind the other players.

    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Boxx’s lack of sharpness is really showing through. She’s got the right idea back there in midfield, but just can’t execute. She just isn’t the player she used to be, unfortunately. I agree that there seemed to be zero communication betwen the back four seemed non-existent in the first half, but something obviously changed in the second.

    2. random

      How about the obvious move: LeP plays central and Rampone plays out wide? I still can’t figure out why this hasn’t at least been tried. I realize Rampone has lost a step, but at least she knows how to play out wide…

  2. Soccer

    Honestly…..I also think what happened in the 1st half was that Cheney really NEVER CAME BACK TO DEFEND like all midfielders should…that just exposed LePeilbet EVEN MORE, 2nd half she was actually playing in midfield more.

    1. katy

      I finally got to go back and re-watch parts of this match (on the DVR) and I completely agree. LePielbet looked “exposed” because she WAS. North Korea saw space between Cheney and LePielbet and went through it repeatedly; thus, we continually see LePielbet challenged, increasing the odds that we’re going to see her beaten.

      This is not to say that putting a forward in midfield wasn’t a risk worth taking, but you have to wonder whether moving a center back to the outside messes up the communication – it may seem like a small difference, but the two positions can entail different roles.

      I also like your lineup. I had a similar scheme in mind: moving Cheney to OM, reinstating Rapinoe at LM, and moving Lloyd back for Boxx. Though I will suggest that some of what created the LePielbet exposure was also disrupting Boxx’s ability to cleanly win balls; she had to cover 1.5 marks at times, and the DM really needs communication from that back line. Either way, she was sluggish.

  3. Angie in OK

    The first half was forgettable, but congrats to the team for regrouping and dominating the second half. Nice to see composure and confidence! Kreigs was outstanding! I am sure the comfort of being back “home” helped prime her solid play, which we desperately needed. She could end up being the rock of the back line. Kudos to Pia for being willing to try something different with the line-up and also to Pinoe for staying focused and being ready when called upon. Against Colombia, we need to be sharp from the opening whistle and put together two solid halves. I hope Pia is able to use more substitute minutes in this next game to provide rest for some starters. Let’s go USA!!!

  4. e

    Phewwwwwwww….thank you Cheney. And thank you Pia for trying something different. Now lets address Boxx and LePeilbet.

  5. cambridge_footie

    It is a long tournament. I liked the substitutions but Pia is going to the bench way too late. Also we have 3 subs. Use them!

    The left side:
    I feel like Pia is sabotaging LeP. She is not a left back and then you put her behind Cheney who is also playing out of position?! If you put Cheney there then you have to play Cox. Gotta give props to LeP for the sweet cross to Wambach in the 2nd half though. 9 out of 10 times Wambach buries that.

    One if my fav WNT players of all time. But I can’t disagree with the criticisms. She is however an enforcer in defense. Who do you replace her with? … Buczkowski busy these days?!!!

    See I’m not down with the Llyod criticism. I agree with everyone about her failings but we tend to talk about them without reference to her qualities… and that ball to Wambach for the Cheney goal was sublime.

  6. StarCityFan

    I have no idea why the media made such a huge deal over the Cheney-Rapinoe replacement, except that it was uncharacteristic of Pia. What a concept not to have the exact same lineup for every game!

    (Wish the same could be said of her substitutions – she always subs out HAO even though she’s not remotely tired and never puts Morgan in before the 75th minute.)

  7. Kara

    I agree that Krieger was player of the match. Her mark only got behind her once and her decision making going forward was a huge bonus. I agree with cambridge…Why NOT use all the subs? It’s like getting three wishes from a genie and only using 2…Doesn’t make sense. Completely agree with the subs coming sooner too. If you’re going to field one of the oldest teams of the WWC, then you need to gamble on going to your bench earlier.

  8. Maliaal

    Am I the only one who would love to see how a Kreiger, LePeilbet, Buehler, Cox backline would work? Or even Sauerbrunn instead of Cox. Rampone is a great player but I just don’t know if she shouldn’t be coming off the bench.

    1. cambridge_footie

      No, I think you are right. When Rampone was on maternity leave didn’t Buehler and LePeilbet work very well together? Add Cox in the mix and now 3 of your 4 defenders play club football together in the run up to the cup.

      When Buehler came to Boston I was excited to see her and LePeilbet team up but DiCicco honored Pia’s strategy and moved Amy out wide too … so at that point you had to figure there was 0% chance of Amy starting in the middle.

  9. TDK

    How about:
    Boxx: Done. Harsh, as she’s been such a warrior, but she’s a liability now.

    Cheney: Fantastic, but not a winger. Start her in Lloyd’s spot, and move Lloyd to Boxx’s spot. Leave Rapinoe at LW.

    Morgan: Starter, or should be. Rodriguez’s speed would be handy off the bench.

    1. katy

      ha ha… oops. i just left a comment with that same proposal. i think the readers of this blog should be coaching this here WNT. consensus-building: we has it!


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