U-20 USWNT: April 2012 Friendlies Versus China’s U-20 WNT

In its first training camp since winning the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championhip, the United States Women’s National Team played two international friendlies versus China’s U-20 WNT. In the first match, on April 12th, the USA scored four second-half goals in a 4:1 victory. On April 15th, in the second match, the USA won 3:0.

Only match reports from US Soccer and TopDrawerSoccer.com are available in-depth sources for these two matches, so this post is mostly a filtered summary of those accounts.

Before I delve into the details of both matches, the biggest question to quietly come out of this camp is…

CAPTAIN WHO? In the first match, Julie Johnston started the match wearing the captain’s armband, in place of the team’s usual captain this year, Mollie Pathman, who also started the match. (For extra proof, here’s the starting line-up photo for that match (isiphotos.net).

In the second match, Crystal Dunn had the armband at the start of the match, while Johnston was also a starter and Pathman remained on the bench for the whole bench. In the first match, Pathman did wear the armband (isiphotos.net) after Johnston was subbed off (66th minute) and it appears that Johnston also had the captain’s armband during the second half of the second match after Dunn was subbed off at the break (Twitter).

This could signify that there is opening in the team’s captaincy, or it could just mean that the armband is being shared, e.g. as a reward, for psychological reasons, etc. In any case, this is something to keep an eye on.

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And, before we get to the matches, a little…

ABOUT THE OPPONENT — CHINA’S U-20 WNT: China is the third-best U-20 WNT in Asia, behind Japan and North Korea, based on Asia’s U-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament (details, The-AFC.com). All three of those teams qualified for the U-20 WWC. When Japan was named the new host for the U-20 WWC, after Uzbekistan was unable to fulfill that responsibility, the fourth-best team, South Korea also qualified.

The final phase of qualification was a six-team single round-robin tournament. The results of China’s five matches were:

China 1, Japan 1 (T).
China 2, Vietnam 1 (W).
China 1, South Korea 1 (T).
China 3, Australia 1 (W).
China 0, North Korea 4 (L).

China finished with a 2-1-2 (W-L-T) record, while Japan and North Korea each had four wins.

See also: Video highlights of the tournament (internal link).

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MATCH #1: USA 4, CHINA 1.

Match Reports: US Soccer, TopDrawerSoccer.com.

USA’s Starting XI (4-3-3):

Heaberlin (GK)
Dunn (RB) — Roccaro (CB) — Kallman (CB) — Pathman (LB)
Brian (CM) — Johnston (CM) — DiBernardo (CM)
Horan (FW) — Hayes (FW) — Ohai (FW)

It appears that Julie Johnston had the holding midfielder role. Also, I am not sure of the forwards’ basic positioning (e.g., which one played on the left, on the right, etc.).

Substitutions:
46: Stengel in, Hayes out.
46: S. Mewis in, DiBernardo out.
58: Smith in, Heaberlin out.
66: Killion in, Johnston out.
66: Ubogagu in, Horan out.
69: Amack in, Dunn out.

Also on the Bench: The only two players from Panama who did not play in the match were centerback/fullback Olivia Brannon and midfielder Mandy Laddish.

The only additional goalkeeper rostered for the match was Stanford’s Emily Oliver. The other two ‘keepers, Jami Kranich and Emily Kruger were not listed on the “Subs not used” line in the box score.

Defenders Caprice Dydasco and Lauren Lindstrom, plus midfielder Ashley Meier suited up for the match, but did not see any playing time.

Scoring:
46: Lindsey Horan (Kealia Ohai or Katie Stengel), 1:0
51: Lindsey Horan (Samantha Mewis), 2:0.
88: Chioma Ubogagu (Samantha Mewis), 3:1.
90+2: Samantha Mewis (Katie Stengel), 4:1.

Regarding the first goal, TopDrawerSoccer.com was at the match and describes it as such:

Kealia Ohai dribbled past her defender and sent in a cross to the far post that Stengel ripped toward the net. Lindsey Horan (perhaps inadvertently) pushed the shot in the right direction with her knee and was credited with the goal.

The US Soccer match report makes no mention of Stengel during this sequence:

…Kealia Ohai sprinted down the left side and swung an accurate cross on the ground to the crashing Horan. She hit her shot off a defender and it spun up in the air and into the left side of the net past the wrong-footed Yang.

So, the description of the play is similar, just with different actors.

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MATCH #2: USA 3, CHINA 0.

Match Reports: US Soccer, TopDrawerSoccer.com.

USA’s Starting XI (4-3-3):

Kranich (GK)
Dunn (RB) — Johnston (CB) — Kallman (CB) — Amack (LB)
Laddish (CM) — Killion (CM) — S. Mewis (CM)
Ubogagu (FW) — Stengel (FW) — Horan (FW)

Again, it is unclear who played where in the midfield and up top. I suspect that Killion was the holding midfielder, but Mewis had also played in that role during the CONCACAF Championship, and Laddish may as well. Up top, Stengel was most likely the center forward.

Swanson made quite a few changes from the first match, presumably so that most of the players in camp would get at least some on-field time. Jami Kranich started in goal, while the top two goalkeepers, Bryane Heaberlin and Abby Smith were not rostered.

The biggest surprise in the line-up is that Julie Johnston started as a centerback. Johnston had primarily been used in the midfield for the U-20s, but did play as a centerback for Santa Clara in some matches last season (www.WCCSports.com), as the Broncos were shorthanded in that position due to injuries. This does not appear to indicate a position switch as the move was mainly for testing a “what if” scenario. From the TopDrawer.com match report for this game:

“We have to kind of play what if something happens and we need to move people around, what are our options,” Swanson added. “It is not just Julie [Johnston], it is other players as well. She did a good job for us today in the back.”

So, we may see additional experimentation with other players in their non-normal national team positions in future scrimmages and friendlies.

Substitutions:
46: Oliver in, Kranich out.
46: Dydasco in, Dunn out.
46: Ohai in, Horan out.
65: Meier in, Killion out.
65: Hayes in, Ubogagu out.
74: Lindstrom in, Amack out.

Also on the Bench: Olivia Brannon is the only player from Panama who did not see any minutes in the two friendlies at the two camps. The only other player to not see time in the two friendlies was goalkeeper Emily Kruger.

The other players on the pine were Mollie Pathman, Cari Roccaro, Morgan Brian, and Vanessa DiBernardo, who all started the first match.

Scoring:
10: Katie Stengel (Chioma Ubogagu)
50: Chioma Ubogagu
90+1: Samantha Mewis (free kick)

I think Ubogagu’s assist credit for the first goal is questionable.  Ubogagu had a shot on goal, which was batted down by China’s goalkeeper. Stengel collected the rebound, moved away from the ‘keeper, and took a shot, which she converted. Had the ball deflected off the woodwork, then I would be okay with the assist credit, but this was an intentional deflection by the ‘keeper, which both match reports describe as a poor play: US Soccer uses the phrase “sloppy,” while TopDrawerSoccer used the word “fumbled.”

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TopDrawerSoccer.com also posted a follow-up article on the camp, which was mostly quotes from the team’s head coach, Steve Swanson, including:

“Sometimes, you can get carried away with results,” Swanson said downplaying the two victories. “Right now, it is more about the performance than the results for us.”

And:

“Overall, I think we got a lot accomplished this week,” he said. “From a physical standpoint, we have a better idea of where we are at and where we need to go. From a technical standpoint, I think the same thing. We are still coming together as a team.”

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TAKEAWAYS:  Two wins is the expected result, the team scored at least three goals in both matches, and the USA only allowed one goal (via a penalty) over the two matches, so there are no glaring issues that stand out.

The biggest positives for both matches is how the USA’s defense (and offense) limited China to just four shots on goal in the first match and none in the second match. Also, the USA’s shots on-target was much improved from the Canada match, with the USA having 12 of 18 shots on goal in the first match and 8 of 14 in the second match. (Of course, China does not seem to be as good as a side as Canada, and the game situations were different, so comparing the statistics from both matches is far from perfect.)

On the not-so-good side, the USA did give up a penalty shot in the first match, which put China back in the match. Although, with just text descriptions to go by, it is hard to judge whether Cari Roccaro’s foul, which led to the penalty, was clumsy, unlucky, or something else.

The player with the best performance on paper over the two matches has to be Samantha Mewis, who had two assists and scored a late goal in the first match, and scored a late free kick goal in the second match. Also, the free kick goal is another positive: It is the second one scored this year, as Morgan Brian had one against Mexico in Panama.

The next training camp will be sometime in May.