The U.S. women’s national team is advancing to the Round of 16 at the World Cup, but the tournament has hardly gone smoothly so far: Head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s team went 1-0-2 in Group E, only narrowly avoiding defeat Tuesday against Portugal with a 0-0 draw.
The team’s uneven performance has led some fans and experts to panic. But Heather O’Reilly, a former USWNT midfielder turned Fox Sports analyst, sees a lot of similarities to the 2015 team that won the World Cup after starting slow in the group stage.
"This team needs us to get behind them... They're going to take care of business with the next opponent and they have this crazy self belief that they're going to move on."@HeatherOReilly, @stuholden and @karinaleblanc share some positives after the USWNT's draw vs Portugal ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/hkq5TIGIR6— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 1, 2023
"This team needs us to get behind them... They're going to take care of business with the next opponent and they have this crazy self belief that they're going to move on."@HeatherOReilly, @stuholden and @karinaleblanc share some positives after the USWNT's draw vs Portugal ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/hkq5TIGIR6
“There was so much chatter. Are we going out early? Does this team have it?” O’Reilly said. “That doesn’t help. That doesn’t help the players, That doesn’t help the staff. That doesn’t help the football. We need to get behind the team.”
Former USWNT captain Carli Lloyd, also a Fox Sports analyst and a hero of the 2015 team, has been among the harshest critics of the team’s performance this World Cup.
“There’s been a shift within this team, within the federation, within the culture, the mentality,” Lloyd said after the Portugal match. “The importance and meaning of winning has changed. What has come from winning has become more important.”
O’Reilly, however, was quick to point that the team was hardly dominant in the group stage in 2015: The USWNT beat Australia, 3-1, in its first match, but then played Sweden to a 0-0 draw and escaped with a 1-0 win against Nigeria.
“Our backs were against the wall,” said O’Reilly, who played on that team alongside Lloyd. “We fought back. A couple tactical changes were made. Carli Lloyd made history.”
O’Reilly acknowledged that Andonovski needs to make some changes – she suggested moving Julie Ertz back to midfield from center-back – but believes the USWNT has what it takes to once again right the ship.
“They’ve only given up one goal in three games. They’re a very defensive-minded group. Vlatko Andonovski, he’s a conservative coach, so we have to embrace that,” she said. “This team, they don’t even care who they’re playing. They don’t care if it’s Sweden… They’re going to take care of business with the next opponent, and they have this crazy self-belief they’re going to move on.”