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Player ratings and analysis: USA 2-0 North Korea

On paper, you would struggle to find two more different teams than USA an North Korea. The United States roster features thirteen players with World Cup experience. The North Koreans, by contrast, combine for an average age under 21 and only one player who has made a previous trip to the big stage.

American players are huge stars and ambassadors for the women’s game. The North Koreans are lucky to be allowed out of their country.

But while the USA won 2-0 on Tuesday in Dresden, these two teams proved to be extremely similar on the pitch.

Who are these North Koreans?

North Korea was a bit of a mystery coming into the World Cup. Their roster stocked with member’s of the U-21 Women’s World Cup winning side, it was unclear how prepared the young squad would be for the seasoned and driven American team.

As US defenders Ali Krieger and Rachel Buehler found out early and often, the North Koreans were up to the challenge. Yun Mi Jo and Su Gyong Kim attacked the flanks with aplomb, with the sixteen-year old Kim particularly impressive. She giftwrapped an opportunity in the first half, cutting inside of Krieger with ease and laying a soft ball across the face of goal. With goalie Hope Solo stranded, the Americans could only hold their breath as the ball rolled harmlessly out of the six yard box, miraculously avoiding the oncoming strikers.

The US had their own glorious chances – Wambach, Rodriguez and Cheney all came close – and it was alarming how often the two teams allowed each other space to shoot in front of goal.

Americans don’t adjust well

The other disconcerting note from the match was how well the North Koreans had scouted and prepared for the US, and how poorly the Americans reacted to pressure on their central midfield pairing. While Amy Rodriguez was an active and mobile participant all match, Abby Wambach struggled to connect with the wide players, who all too often tried to take the match by the scruff of the neck instead of moving forward with calmness and structure.

In her first start, Lauren Cheney looked dangerous cutting into the center of the park but was less effective on the wing. Heather O’Reilly might consider something other than a speed move when the defenders are affording her enough space to pass, obviously expecting a straightforward sprint.

Cheney off the mark

It was Cheney, rushing the face of goal, who finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. Wambach had been moving out to the left to get more involved, and when she found space to cross with her right, Cheney was waiting in the middle to finish with a header that wrong-footed the Korean keeper.

The American tide continued to rise once they took the lead, and Rachel Buehler’s sliding effort snuck inside the near post in the 76th to effectively put the match to bed.

The Buehler strike is interesting in that it highlights an option that the Americans failed to use to maximum effect: the outside backs. Fit, fast and good crossers of the ball, the US needs to get their outside backs involved if they want to maintain possession and pressure against strong opponents. This will allow Cheney to push forward and collect the balls that Wambach knocks down from deep service.

Overall, an exciting first match for the US squad, but one fraught with close calls. The US next faces Colombia, and will need to show a much more dominant side of themselves against the weakest side in Group C.

Player ratings

Hope Solo – 8

Solo turned away the most dangerous near post effort from North Korea and held onto every other shot on frame. A solid return to World Cup action for her.

Amy LePeilbet – 6

LePeilbet has to take a big step forward against Colombia. North Korea was able to keep her on her heels all match and she was a non-factor going forward.

Christine Rampone – 6

Rampone kept the defense organized when the pressure was high, but her distribution left something to be desired. She can blame Boxx and Lloyd for hanging her out to dry with a few bad turnovers (but she won’t).

Ali Krieger – 5

Amost eighty minutes of struggling to keep up with the stylish play of the Korean attackers. Krieger looks like she’ll be much more at home against the direct style play of the Germans than the more creative attack of Brazil, should the US face one of those powerhouses in the later rounds.

Rachel Buehler – 7

A fine finish, but like Krieger she was notably absent from the attack for the rest of the match.

Carli Lloyd – 5

The US expects much more of Lloyd, and will need it going forward. She has to get the ball to the feet of Cheney, O’Reilly and Rodriguez when the find good positions. Too often the dynamic players on the US side were forced to create their own space.

Shannon Boxx – 4

Boxx and Lloyd need to do some soul searching and communicating. Who picks up the first woman through the middle? Who is making the run to support Wambach when her back is to goal?

Heather O’Reilly – 5

Much smarter play should be O’Reilly’s focus going forward. She has the talent to beat anybody in the world off the dribble, but that doesn’t mean she needs to try and do it every time.

Lauren Cheney – 8

Lauren “NASA” Cheney fired off some rockets in this match. Anything less than a world class keeper will struggle to keep her off the scoresheet if she can keep her shots on net.

Abby Wambach – 6

A fine assist for Wambach. Going forward, she either has to be a part of the build-up play or needs to create more space for herself in the box.

Amy Rodriguez – 8

A very nice display from the Independence striker. Her goal against Colombia should be to draw the central defenders off of Wambach, as she spent too much time pulling around the outside backs against North Korea.

Alex Morgan – 6

Not too much from Morgan. Her left-footed shot over the net was powerful enough to give fair warning that she plans to make an impact on this tournament.

Megan Rapinoe – 7

A strong showing from Rapinoe, who offered a very different look with her jinky runs and patience on the ball.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Women’s World Cup: Groups B & C round-up

  2. The center of the US midfield was too muddy and slow. If Boxx and Lloyd can crank up the speed of distribution the goals will come by the barrel because Cheney, Wambach, A Rod and Morgan look to be all revved up and ready to go.

    They should smash 6 past colombia.

  3. yeah that left side in the back is troublesome. i hafta imagine that will effect any plans of sending backs up the field from that side. in the second half they had to drop the mids back to cover even.

  4. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Power rankings, PPL Park love, more news

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