The U.S. women’s national team continues their journey through the SheBelieves Cup, which is the toughest tournament they will face all year. On Saturday, they face England (5 p.m. ET, FOX) and although England is the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, they could be the toughest opponent the USWNT will face.
While Germany slowed things down and frankly looked a little jet-lagged, England will probably try to put the USWNT under heavy pressure in the first half and keep the game moving fast. The high press will be a good test for the Americans and their new-look 3-4-1-2 system. Here are the keys for the USWNT to beat England:
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Be ready for England to press high
Germany didn’t put the USWNT’s three-woman back line under enough pressure in their opening match of the tournament and the American defense looked relatively comfortable. England came out against France with good energy in their opener, and with jet lag even less of a factor this far into the tournament, the Americans should expect England to put them under pressure. That means the U.S. will need to move the ball quicker than they did on Wednesday and release pressure, which wasn’t necessary against Germany.
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Control possession in the midfield better
The USWNT needs to do a better job controlling possession and working the ball through their lines than they did to start the tournament. Against Germany, the USWNT focused a lot on long balls up the field that simply didn’t work and it limited their opportunities until Germany lost steam later in the match. They will need to break England down with the ball on the ground earlier if they want to get an early lead.
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Use set pieces wisely
The USWNT had plenty of set piece opportunities vs. Germany, but they all went to waste because they were static and predictable. The USWNT is capable of doing well on set pieces, but they need more dynamic movement in the box. That might not be at the top of Jill Ellis’ priority list as she is tackling big tactical questions about the team’s identity, but set pieces can’t be forgotten. England doesn’t have a height advantage or aerial presence the Americans need to be too worried about, so they should be able to score on those chances.
Keep the tempo up and stretch England’s defensive shape
While England’s squad has mostly started their club preseasons and should bestarting to get into decent enough form, the Americans’ renowned athleticism should give them an advantage. If recent matches are any indication, England will probably also utilize a three-back system that will force wingbacks to cover a lot of ground. If the Americans can keep the match played at a high tempo, they should be able to run England ragged and eventually pull them out of their shape. England will probably be trying to do something similar, and with a fast pace, the USWNT can beat England at their own game.
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Use the width of the field, and attack that right side
The Americans often looked a little bit too narrow against Germany. They weren't able to find forwards Christen Press or Lynn Williams making runs in the pockets of space left open in wide areas, and they struggled to move the ball through the spine of their attack. Using the width of the field will be key, and the right side looked particularly vulnerable in England’s three-back system. Rachel Daly has been asked to convert to a wingback role, and she was mostly fine against France, but left some space behind her when she got caught too far forward. The USWNT can take advantage of that.