Women's Soccer USA

Coverage of women's soccer in the US. If it's not here...it's not important...

September 21, 2007

A step back under Ryan?

If the world is catching up to the U.S. team, there are indications the Americans have taken a step back -- perhaps a small one -- as well. Although they remained unbeaten in first-round play since the tournament began in 1991 (13-0-2), the scores in the 2007 group stage were closer than ever and, for the first time, the United States had to closely monitor the progress of the group's other game on the final day of play to learn where it would finish.

The Americans faced the same three teams in group play this year as they did in 2003 and, although they defeated Sweden by two goals again, they had to come from behind to tie the North Koreans, 2-2, after beating them by 3-0 scores four years ago and in 1999. They also had to hold off Nigeria in the second half for a 1-0 victory following a 5-0 rout in '03 and a 7-1 decision in '99.

But there has also been a noticeable change in the U.S. team's style of play. The Americans have lacked a dynamic attacking element, a player to improvise in the open field and take on defenders like superstar Mia Hamm once did. They have also had trouble linking together quick, one-touch passes, a trademark of past U.S. teams, to unlock opposing defenses. Other than Lori Chalupny's two-way play, the U.S. midfield has lacked production and ingenuity.

"I've definitely seen them play better," Sweden team captain Victoria Svensson said. "Six or seven years ago, they would try to play the ball on the ground a lot more and pull teams apart that way. Now they just try to bang it up".

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