all scores

USWNT finding attacking identity: Takeaways from win over New Zealand

(Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

The United States women’s national team bounced back from Thursday’s scoreless draw with the Czech Republic with a 5-0 win over New Zealand in their second match of the SheBelieves Cup on Sunday.

Referring to the USWNT’s competitions as an ongoing “process” as they prepare for the 2023 World Cup, head coach Vlatko Andonovski was hesitant to pinpoint anything that has been “good” or “bad” in the team’s performances in the SheBelieves Cup so far.

“I’m happy for today’s result, but I’m not any more happy than I was in the last game,” he said.

One area where the USWNT did improve from Thursday to Sunday was their ability to create more scoring opportunities, as they forced three own goals from New Zealand defender Meikayla Moore and got two goals from Ashley Hatch and Mallory Pugh.

Below are three takeaways from the USWNT’s match against New Zealand.

Figuring it out in the midfield

Andonovski said after the game that he thought the team’s passing distribution in the attacking third was better in the second match than in the first, but the creativity still needs to be better.

“I wanted us to be just a little bit more sophisticated, just a little more creative in certain situations,” he said. Andonovski did praise the creativity of midfielder Ashley Sanchez, who started in place of the injured Rose Lavelle.

What worked best were plays near the opponents’ 18-yard box, especially accurate crosses and well-timed runs into those crosses.

Sofia Huerta holding her own at right fullback

Playing the entire match, Huerta was one of the most productive players on the pitch Sunday. Her precise crosses contributed to the attack, resulting in two assists — one to Midge Purce and the other to Ashley Hatch. Purce’s header that skimmed New Zealand defender Moore was counted as an own goal, but was a direct result of Huerta’s consistent dangerous services into the right areas.

In her own half, Huerta made the most impressive defensive play of the game, saving a New Zealand chance with a well-directed header out of the box.

Ashley Hatch’s serious ‘early goal’ energy

You could chalk it up to beginners’ luck, but NWSL 2021 Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch has been lethal in front of net. Not only has she scored three games in a row, but she’s scored her goals within six minutes of stepping onto the pitch.

She’s the kind of player Andonovski needs to keep around when the U.S. could use a quick goal off of the opening whistle, or if the team is struggling to find rhythm in the second half and needs a sub to get momentum rolling.

The U.S. plays their final match of the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday against Iceland at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. The teams will battle for first place in the tournament after Iceland defeated New Zealand 1-0 in their first match on Thursday, followed by a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.