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Match Analysis and Commentary: USA Women 2:0 North Korea -Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Posted by NSCAA on Jun 30, 2011 0 Comments

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Match Analysis and Commentary: USA Women 2:0 North Korea -Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prepared by: Tim Robinson, Gabe Massine, Tania Armellino, NSCAA Coaches on WWC Special Topics Course

The opening round of Group C for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup competition saw the United States of America take on a tenacious but out-sized North Korea side early Tuesday evening. Play opened to a near capacity crowd of 21,859 at the Rudolf Harbig Stadium in Dresden, Germany, where the weather and field conditions were nearly ideal. Sunny and clear, the only hardship players were forced to endure was the late afternoon heat. During the halftime interval the sun set behind the rim of Harbig. As the second half got underway, North Korean hopes of a victory began to fade as well.

First Half:

Coach Pia Sundhage took a big gamble by making some strategic changes to the U.S. starting line-up. Realizing she wanted Amy Rodriquez, Abby Wambach, and Lauren Cheney on the field at the same time, she placed Cheney at the outside left midfield position of the U.S.'s 4-4-2 formation. It was a position with which Cheney had little experience and many may have questioned the move. Wambach and Rodriquez appeared to compliment each other up front as the North Korean defense was kept busy with Rodriquez's pace, as well as with Wambach's height and presence.

Early action saw a couple of near misses by both sides with the Americans gaining a slight edge in field position and possession.  Cheney had a few of the early chances coming inside from her flank position to get shots on frame.  But by the 25th minute the North Koreans began to find a seam in the U.S.'s left flank. North Korea's Yun consistently created several scoring opportunities by getting behind the American back line of defense.

Many of these first half opportunities were generated by a rapid switch of the North Korean point of attack from the left flank to right flank. This switch often left the U.S. back four overloaded on one side and thus unbalanced. Other times the Koreans played long diagonally driven balls from the left side of mid-field to the right wing. One bad dream that almost turned into an American nightmare occurred in the 38th minute of play, as North Korean right back Jung Sun Song was able to slip in behind the U.S. Song, with the ball at her feet, drove by left back Amy LePeilbet and headed toward the U.S. goal. American goalkeeper Hope Solo was forced to the near post leaving three quarters of the American net dangerously exposed. In the end, the ball drifted across an empty goal mouth and just by the far post.

Fortunately, U.S. defender Rachel Buehler was able to clear the ball into touch.

Second Half:

When a car tire goes flat, one usually gets out and changes it, and many coaches would have made changes during the halftime interval and replaced those players who appeared to be faltering, but not U.S. Head Women's Coach, Pia Sundhage. Coach Sundhage chose to let the players prove themselves giving them valuable playing time in their new positions.  While making no changes to the line-up she did make some subtle but significant tactical adjustments.  She decided to focus on the attack and unleashed Wambach to exploit the space on the attacking flanks, stretching the North Korean defense and committing more defenders deep and wide, thereby thwarting their counter. The more effective Wambach was a danger centrally nearly scoring a header goal, as Pia's strategy paid off both defensively and offensively by tying up the side of the Korean attack that was having so much success in the first half. In the 74th minute, central midfielder Carli Lloyd played a ball into space on the left wing where Wambach collected it and turned at the goal line. After a fake cross, which left the North Korean defender frozen, Abby cut the ball back and sent an idyllic cross to the far post. Lauren Cheney read the cross perfectly as she rose and headed home the eventual game winner. Pia’s minor tactical adjustments not only resulted in the game winning goal, but also minimized the threat the North Koreans posed on the American's left flank.

North Korea had a few quality attempts on goal during the second half including a ball off the post and a blazing shot toward the right upper ninety, but they were unsuccessful in scoring.

The final goal by the U.S. came at the 78th minute as defender Rachel Buehler found the near post on a scrappy melee in a crowded penalty area after a reserve of an attacking corner kick. The 87th minute provided some excitement, when outside midfielder, Megan Rapinoe, took advantage of a ball fumbled by North Korean goalkeeper, Hong. But due to a questionable foul called by the center referee, the goal was disallowed and the score remained 2-0.

Final thoughts:

Luckily for the U.S., it seems, the North Koreans were not at full strength, several of their players reportedly not being fully recovered from being struck by lightning. That being said… although the U.S. started slowly, they were ultimately able to take advantage of their superior size, strength, athleticism and tactics, to win the match. The game was won in the second half when the U.S. improved its possession through the midfield and adjusted Wambach’s positioning at forward. The addition of Lauren Cheney to the lineup at left midfield resulted in several quality chances as she drove centrally with the ball, and the eventual game winner off Wambach’s cross. In order for continued success, it will be necessary for the United States to show their confidence and intensity from the first whistle, continue to improve their speed of play, and adapt to new players in new positions. If they can do that, the most rare of metals may lie in their future.

Starting Line-Ups

USA 4-4-2


11                     3                               19                   6


9 (15, 79:00)                                    12


20                                     8 (13, 75:00)

Korea DPR 4-4-2


5                                  17                              16                3/6 (20, 81:00)


8                                                  11


9                     7/3 (6, 48:00)


Scoring Summary
  1 2 Final
USA 0 2 2
PRK 0 0 0


USA – Lauren Cheney (Abby Wambach) 54th minute USA – Rachel Buehler (Carli Lloyd)  76 Statistical Summary: USA / PRK Shots: 19 / 13 Shots on Goal: 12 / 7 Saves: 7 / 10 Corner Kicks: 8 / 4 Fouls: 9 / 11 Offside: 0 / 1

Click here for a match analysis from 'The Guardian!'

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