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USWNT: What went right and what went wrong vs. Netherlands

(Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team narrowly avoided a World Cup group-stage flop against the Netherlands.

While the USWNT trailed at halftime (and for the first time in its last 18 World Cup matches), captain Lindsey Horan scored the equalizer, which allowed her team to escape with a 1-1 draw.

Yet while the USWNT remains in the hunt for the top spot in Group E, the match left the two-time reigning World Cup champions with plenty to chew on. Just Women’s Sports breaks down the highlights and lowlights.

What went right

Lindsey Horan’s Herculean effort in midfield

Just before halftime, the 29-year-old midfielder threw up her hands in the middle of the field. She seemed to be asking two questions at once: Could the five Dutch midfielders give her a little room to work, and could her teammates find a way to get her the ball?

Still, while Horan faced among the most challenging tasks on the field, she did not shy away. Indeed, she maintained her fire throughout the match, which led to the equalizer in the second half. Netherlands midfielder Danielle van de Donk fanned the flames when she knocked Horan to the ground with a hard tackle. Horan responded with a header off a USWNT corner to tie the score.

“I don’t think you ever want to get me mad, because I don’t react in a good way,” Horan told The Athletic’s Meg Linehan after the match. “Usually I just go and I want something more. I want to win more. I want to score more. I want to do more for my team.”

Rose Lavelle’s second-half spark

While the 28-year-old midfielder was cleared to start, she came off the bench for the second consecutive match. And for the second consecutive match, she provided a spark as soon as she came onto the pitch.

Lavelle immediately injected energy into the USWNT midfield, which had struggled to deal with the Netherlands’ 3-5-2 formation (more on that below). While she picked up the first yellow card of the match on a rough tackle just five minutes into the second half, she also got the assist on Horan’s goal with a slicing corner kick.

What went wrong

USWNT’s lack of attacking pressure

The USWNT finished the match with more shots (18-5) and more shots on goal (4-1) than the Netherlands. But the Netherlands dominated possession, controlling the ball for 56% of the match and completing 400 of 509 passes compared to just 291 of 403 for the USWNT.

Even the shooting stats underscore larger issues for the USWNT. For the second match in a row, the team struggled to finish its chances, a problem in and of itself and also a symptom of the types of chances the attack is creating. The USWNT attack looked disjointed at times as play moved through the swarming Dutch midfield, particularly in the first half. And while the second half brought better looks, just one found the net.

Vlatko Andonovski’s inability to counter Dutch tactics

Just Women’s Sports writer Claire Watkins questioned Andonovski’s bench usage (or lack thereof). Just one U.S. player — Rose Lavelle — came on as a substitute in the match, which left the team with tired legs and limited its options for responding to the Netherlands’ chess moves. Four USWNT field players — Lynn Williams, Ashley Sanchez, Kristie Mewis and Emily Sonnett — have not played at all through the first two matches.

The team’s trouble with the 3-5-2 Dutch formation, particularly the packed midfield, also stood out as an area of concern.