Vlatko Andonovski: USWNT ‘probably not ready’ for World Cup, but will be

Alex Morgan and the USWNT attack will look to get the better of Canada's stifling defense in the final. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team eked out a 1-0 victory over a determined Mexico side Monday in the team’s last Concacaf W Championship group stage match. For coach Vlatko Andonovski, the narrow win showed how much the group must grow before next year’s World Cup.

While the United States won Group A with a clean sheet, the squad failed to show the dominant offensive performance that the USWNT fans are used to seeing. Andonovski said as much in his post-game press conference Monday.

“I have to say if you asked me if we are ready to play in the World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for it,” Andonovski said. “But we are going to be ready in a year, absolutely.”

The USWNT has undergone a significant transition under Andonovski, with the coach integrating young talent into the team. The balance between youth and experience was a topic of conversation during the USWNT’s disappointing Olympic bronze-medal run in Tokyo, with veterans given priority over up-and-coming talent.

With the 2023 World Cup on the horizon, Andonovski looks set to prepare a young talent pool to take the reins. The coach has been using the Concacaf W Championship to continue to evaluate individual players, leaving the USWNT looking disjointed and out-of-sync at times.

The USWNT offense, in particular, has suffered from a lack of chemistry and consistency. Aside from the team’s 5-0 shutout over Jamaica, the USWNT’s scorelines have been scanty relative to the level of talent available with players like Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh.

Heading into Concacaf, the USWNT notched a total of five goals in two international friendlies over Colombia.

The USWNT has undoubtedly shown flashes of individual brilliance and an ability to connect in the final third, but overall, the attack looked inconsistent and, at times, uninspired.

As the team gets ready for the knockout stage in Mexico, the USWNT will look for their attack to start to gel, starting with building chemistry on their frontline. Alex Morgan, who is on a goalscoring tear for club and country, will likely be flanked by Smith and Pugh in the USWNT’s starting forward lineup. All three attackers are lethal attacking threats, with a proven ability to be clinical in the final third.

The potential and talent are certainly there. Now the USWNT needs to connect between the lines and get their outside backs involved on the flanks. With many teams deploying a low block against the USWNT, the midfield will be critical in exploiting space and pulling backlines apart. Luckily the squad has two experts in injecting creativity and spontaneity into the center or the pitch with midfielders Ashley Sanchez and Rose Lavelle.

As Andonovski said, the team is not clicking yet, but the pieces are all there.