On Friday, the Netherlands took on the United States in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. The Dutch have had several matches over the past couple international breaks as they have been competing for a spot at the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Championship. On October 23rd, they were able to secure qualification after a 7-0 win over Estonia.
WEURO 2022, HERE WE COME!#WEURO2022 #AllesvoorOranje pic.twitter.com/z3udYWTnPj— OranjeLeeuwinnen (@oranjevrouwen) October 23, 2020
WEURO 2022, HERE WE COME!#WEURO2022 #AllesvoorOranje pic.twitter.com/z3udYWTnPj
Unlike their opponents, the USWNT have not had an abundance of opportunities to play together in 2020. Their last match was back in March; a 3-1 win against Japan in the SheBelieves Cup — the final football tournament to be held in America before all professional sports across the country shut down due to the pandemic.
Even though the USWNT have not played in eight months, they outclassed the Dutch in pretty much every department, with scores from Rose Lavelle and Kristie Mewis leading to a 2-0 win. (You can read a full recap of the game here.)
The match revealed quite a bit about the current state of both teams, and what to expect as they move into the new year.
Here are three things that we learned from the USWNT’s win.
Who’s ready for some Friday Night Lights?!????????? ????????????. pic.twitter.com/nEHsMiK46t— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) November 27, 2020
Who’s ready for some Friday Night Lights?!????????? ????????????. pic.twitter.com/nEHsMiK46t
With all the time off, especially compared to their opponents, it would have been expected for the USWNT to be rusty. Moreover, this was only head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s 11th game in charge after Jill Ellis stepped down following five years in charge.
However, the team were comfortably able to outmatch and compete against an almost full-strength Dutch team.
It took some time for the USWNT to find fluidity in their attack, but the press was relentless, and the Dutch barely had a say in the happenings of the match. Once the first 20 minutes seemed to pass, the American attack appeared to gain confidence, and after Lavelle finally opened up the scoring in the 41st minute, it looked like the Netherlands were in for a long night, despite only being down one at the half. The USWNT would go on to register 11 shots throughout the match, with six of them being on target.
41' | @roselavelle with her third goal of the year and it’s a BEAUT! ???? pic.twitter.com/KEcK3qNdEV— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) November 27, 2020
41' | @roselavelle with her third goal of the year and it’s a BEAUT! ???? pic.twitter.com/KEcK3qNdEV
It isn’t just their attack that makes America the best team in the world. Defensively, the Dutch barely got a sniff, despite having proven goal-scorers in Barcelona’s Lieke Martens and Arsenal’s Jill Roord in the starting eleven, and VfL Wolfsburg’s Shanice van de Sanden coming off the bench. The back four of Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O’Hara excelled in limiting the chances and shots of their opponents, but more on the Dutch’s lackluster attack in a second.
In terms of the midfield, the trio of Sam Mewis, Lavelle, and Julie Ertz have constantly shown up and performed for the national team, and this match was no different. They are the perfect trio in terms of versatility, with each of them having a distinct role to play. Ertz did her part as a defensive midfielder, sniffing out any attacking threat from the Netherlands, which gave Mewis and Lavelle the freedom to bomb forward and threaten Netherland’s defense alongside the USWNT’s front three.
Finally, what makes the USWNT the best team in the world today is their depth. With players like Kristie Mewis, Alex Morgan, Midge Purce, and Sophia Smith (in her first appearance for the team) coming off the bench and immediately contributing, the U.S. can rest assured that that if they ever have injury problems, or just need a new gameplan, there is little to no drop off in the quality of their substitutes.
First cap for the kid ????@sophsssmith makes her ???????? debut, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to appear for the #USWNT pic.twitter.com/QJcM1M5aUg— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) November 27, 2020
First cap for the kid ????@sophsssmith makes her ???????? debut, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to appear for the #USWNT pic.twitter.com/QJcM1M5aUg
Kristie Mewis punctuated this point when she came off the bench to score the second goal of the night.
70' | In her first cap since 2014, @KristieMewie comes through with her second USWNT goal and first since 2013! pic.twitter.com/WdCQxW0Ade— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) November 27, 2020
70' | In her first cap since 2014, @KristieMewie comes through with her second USWNT goal and first since 2013! pic.twitter.com/WdCQxW0Ade
Despite the USWNT going into this match as the clear favorites, the Dutch are no team to scoff at. They were runner-ups at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and were the 2017 champions of the UEFA Women’s Euro’s. And though they lost 2-0 against the USWNT in the World Cup final as well, that match was much more balanced then the one that took place on Friday.
The glaring omission in the friendly was the absence of Vivianne Miedema, who had to pull out of international duty due to a hip injury.
Miedema is considered one of the best players in the world, and a taliswoman for her country. For Arsenal this season in the FAWSL, she’s had 12 goal contributions (10 goals, and 2 assists), and on October 18th, became the first to score 50 WSL goals, overtaking Nikita Parris’ all-time league record of 49.
Just @VivianneMiedema things ???????? 19/20 @UWCL top scorer ???? 19/20 @BarclaysFAWSL top scorer ???? All-time @BarclaysFAWSL top scorer And now a nominee for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2020 ????— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) November 25, 2020
Just @VivianneMiedema things ???????? 19/20 @UWCL top scorer ???? 19/20 @BarclaysFAWSL top scorer ???? All-time @BarclaysFAWSL top scorer And now a nominee for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2020 ????
The Netherlands were missing a superstar playing at the peak of her powers, and it showed. Against the U.S., the Dutch only registered two shots on goal, and both were off the target.
Despite having more possession (62% vs 38%), the Dutch really struggled to get the ball into the box, and while credit to the USWNT’s defence is due, without Miedema, Holland lost their main target and their best finisher. They were unable to form coherent attacking plays, and were often stuck with the ball in their own half, or on the flanks of the pitch in the final third.
It is unclear how serious Miedema’s hip injury is, and the hope for the Dutch is that it is not a long term injury that keeps her out for the upcoming 2021 Olympics.
The Olympics are set to start on July 23rd, 2021, after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, unlike the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which has a limit of 23 players per final squad, the Olympics has a cap of 18. As mentioned before, the USWNT has amazing strength in their depth, and that means that several players who may be deserving of a call-up won’t get one.
There have not yet been any set USWNT matches scheduled from now until the Olympics, but with a training camp scheduled in January, the SheBelieves Cup in February, as well as some friendlies expected to happen, Andonovski will have lots of time to narrow down a selection. This USWNT squad is so talented, it’s only inevitable that big names and fan favorites will have to be cut in order to fit the 18-player limit.