U-17 USWNT: A Review of the 2012 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship Final

Last weekend, the United States Under-17 Women’s National Team defeated their northern neighbors, Canada, 1:0 in a tight match that saw the USA defense being tested seriously for the first time in the tournament. The USA held onto a 1:0 lead for over 70 minutes, in a staunch defensive effort which was made all the more challenging due to the USA’s inability to maintain possession and to control the match’s tempo.

Highlights (CONCACAF):

Highlights (US Soccer):

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Starting Line-Up: Montoya went with his usual core defensive players, but made a few offensive changes. Attacking midfielder Sarah Robinson, after sitting out the Panama match, returned to the starting eleven, along with forward Midge Purce. Forward Amber Munerlyn got her second appearance and second start of the tournament.

Cambell (GK)
Basinger (RB) — Bauer (CB) — Freeman (CB) — G.Miranda
Andrews (HM)
Stanton (AM) — Robinson (AM)
Purce (RF) — Green (CF) — Munerlyn (LF)

Fig. 1: The USA’s Starting Line-Up

On the Bench: Lauren Kaskie, Emily Bruder, Lizzy Raben, Toni Payne, Andi Sullivan, Darian Jenkins, Cassie Miller.

Which meant that midfielder Joanna Boyles and fullback Morgan Reid were not rostered.

Substitutions: In the 54th minute, Lauren Kaskie came on for Robinson. In the 64th minute, Emily Bruder was subbed in for Purce, who appeared to be somewhat tired out due to all the end-to-end running. And, in the 85th minute, Lizzy Raben replaced Gabbi Miranda, with Raben playing as the right fullback and Brittany Basinger switching to the left flank. So, the final formation:

Fig 2: The USA’s Final Formation
(Substitutes are in red)

In the second half, Munerlyn stayed mostly in the center as a counter-attacking option while Green floated much more around the midfield.

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Formation: Canada’s basic formation was a 4-4-2 with their attacking midfielder, Valerie Sanderson (#10), usually playing higher than the other midfielders. Sanderson tended to man-mark the USA’s defensive midfielder and usual distributor, Morgan Andrews, which limited Andrew’s availability as a passing option.

In the 79th minute, right fullback Lindsay Agnew was subbed off for midfielder Jasmin Dhanda. The formation switched to a three-back, probably along the lines of a 3-4-3, but the particular formation shape was not exactly evident.

Playing Style: Canada’s primary style was the long ball. Their attacks usually started with their goalkeeper, Kailen Sheridan. Of her twenty distributions, only one was a short pass to her back line. The rest were either long punts, long goal kicks, or long kicks. For most of those kicks, Sheridan waved her teammates to go up field and waited before launching her kicks.

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The USA had just one goal in the match, but it was quality. The team had a couple of other good chances, including a Munerlyn shot off the right post from just outside the six-yard box, but most of the USA’s shots were speculative efforts from well outside Canada’s penalty box.

Fig. 3: Map of Shots and Goals Scored

The USA’s Goal-Scoring Play: The USA held the ball for a continuous sixty seconds where it passed the ball seventeen times. Eight USA players touched the ball at least once: All except Morgan Andrews, Morgan Stanton, and Midge Purce.

Fig. 4: The USA’s Goal-Scoring Play
(Some players’ positions have been
moved to prevent overlapping.)

The Passes:

  1. Campbell delivers a short goal kick to Bauer, who settles the ball.
  2. Bauer sends a pass over to Miranda.
  3. Miranda to Robinson.
  4. Robinson to Munerlyn.
  5. Munerlyn, who is under pressure, dribbles back into the USA’s half and passes to Miranda.
  6. Miranda to Robinson.
  7. Robinson immediately returns the ball to Miranda.
  8. Miranda crosses to Freeman.
  9. Freeman to Bauer.
  10. Bauer dribbles a little and  sends a grounder up to Basinger.
  11. Basinger tries to move up field, but backtracks and sends the ball back to Bauer.
  12. Bauer does not completely settle the ball as it rolls behind her. Bauer turns and back-passes to Campbell.
  13. Campbell to Bauer.
  14. Bauer back to Campbell.
  15. Campbell back to Bauer.
  16. Bauer dribbles a bit up field, then sends a hard and low pass up to Green.
  17. Green, using the inside of her right foot, flicks the ball up ahead to Munerlyn, who by now, had moved to the center of Canada’s back line.

Munerlyn turns and runs onto the ball, dribbles somes, then chips a low shot just above Canada’s goalkeeper, Sheridan and slightly to her left, while Sheridan commits to a low shot on the right.

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As a whole, the USA’s back line had an excellent match, but its weakest link was its left fullback, Gabbi Miranda, who is the least “natural” defender of the four.

Jane Campbell (#1, goalkeeper): Campbell had another solid performance in goal, although she was not tested too much, as Canada only had two shots on goal. In the second half, Campbell tended to kick the ball long, rather than short distributions, which may have been due to the frustration of her goal being under constant pressure, as well as the USA’s passing problems.

Maddie Bauer (#5, centerback): In addition to a quality defensive performance, Bauer also had a key role in the USA’s lone goal-scoring play as she helped to set-up Summer Green’s assist.

Mandy Freeman (#16, centerback): Freeman had her best defensive performance of the tournament, especially when providing support on the left flank.

Brittany Basinger (#3, right/left fullback): Basinger played mostly in a defensive capacity and did not get forward all that much. She was not challenged as much as Miranda.

Gabbi Miranda (#6, left fullback): Miranda was beaten a couple times in one-v-one situations deep on her flank by the Canadian forwards and had some giveaway passes in the second half. On the positive side, she did not give up any free kicks due to fouling.

Morgan Andrews (#10, holding midfielder): Andrews was effectively marked out of the match by her opposite number, Valerie Sanderson. Andrews’ free kick touch was lacking as two of her kicks went straight to Canada’s goalie and another did not curve as intended, forcing Purce to backtrack which resulted in a weak header on goal.

Morgan Stanton (#11, attacking midfielder): Stanton contributed defensively and offensively, including being involved in the play that almost led to Munerlyn’s second goal. However, in the second half, she was less involved due to the USA’s inability to maintain possession and Canada bypassing the USA’s midfield with the long ball.

Sarah Robinson (#17, attacking midfielder): Robinson seemed to be 100% after receiving a knock to her ribs in the Mexico match. Her fifty-plus minutes on-field were rather quiet as it seems that her height and size put her at a definite disadvantage when up against Canada’s tall and athletic line-up. (And, even more so than Stanton, who is more technical defensively.)

Midge Purce (#15, forward): Purce was able to maintain ball possession out on the flanks, but the physicality of Canada’s right fullback, Lindsay Agnew, along with having to retreat quickly on Canada’s long ball took their toll on Purce. She did help to set up the play which almost led to Munerlyn’s second goal and had a decent shot on goal.

Summer Green (#8, forward): Although she did not score, her creativity was the spark for the USA’s scoring play. Her shots were not that great and were all from outside the penalty box. As the match wore on, Green essentially played as a midfielder.

Amber Munerlyn (#4, forward): Munerlym scored the one goal and had the USA’s next best chance for a goal. In the second half, especially, Munerlyn played more as a center forward for counter-attacking.

Lauren Kaskie (#14, attacking midfielder; substitute, 54′): Kaskie’s passing was generally accurate and she had a decent shot on goal, which, although it was from outside the penalty box,  was hard hit and on target, but too low to really challenge Sheridan.

Emily Bruder (#9, forward; substitute, 64′): Bruder’s dribbling touch was lacking, which did not help the USA sustain possession and caused a couple opportunities for scoring to fizzle out.

Lizzy Raben (#2, right fullback; substitute, 85′):Offensively and defensively, Raben did not have that much to do, but she did have one pass which was on the money to Green.

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TAKEAWAYS: What Did Not Go Right

1. The USA Lost Control of the Match’s Tempo: Canada’s long balls, combined with the USA’s inability to maintain possession in the second half, allowed for an end-to-end match. Also, in the second half, the USA’s goalkeeper, Campbell, primarily kicked the ball long, which exacerbated the tempo and possession issues.

2. In the Second Half, the USA Could Not Maintain Possession: Between long kicks not won by the USA, inaccurate passing, and poor dribbling in the final third, the USA was unable to relieve the pressure on its goal for more than a minute at a time. More importantly, this prevented the USA from getting a crucial second goal and allowed Canada to get into a bit of a rhythm.

TAKEAWAYS: What Went Right

1. The USA protected an Early 1:0 Lead to the Final Whistle: Pressure and nerves got to this team a bit, perhaps in part due to the ghosts of the 2010 U-17 USWNT, the 2011 USWNT inability to hold a one-goal lead twice during the Women’s World Cup final, and even possibly the U-23 USMNT failure to even make the knock-out stage of Olympic qualification. But, whatever the case may be, this team was able to find a way to finish the match — and the tournament — without conceding a goal.

2. The USA Defense Did Not Completely Break Down: Weaknesses were challenged, but the USA’s back line held it together for a full ninety minutes in a championship final. The glue of the back line were its centerbacks, Bauer and Freeman who both had solid matches. And, in the end, Canada only had two shots on goal, with neither of those being that threatening.

3. Patience Paid Off: The USA’s goal-scoring play was due to patience more than anything. The USA tried to push up the field twice, but retreated instead of forcing a bad pass. The lengthy possession allowed Munerlyn to move to the center, away from her primary defender, which created a weakness that the USA was able to exploit.

[Note: I’ll have a separate “where do they go from here” post which will discuss in more depth areas that need improvement.]

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Refereeing: The center referee, Alicia Villatoro of Guatemala, seemed to let a few fouls go, which in some respects is typical for a significant match. I thought Canada’s Lindsay Agnew could have been given a yellow card for a shove-slash-bump of Mandy Freeman deep in the USA’s left flank.

Also, there was a somewhat hilarious moment late when Jane Campbell caught the ball while Nichelle Prince continued to run after the ball and failed to alter her path, thus colliding with Campbell, Prince fell to the ground and incredulously appealed for a penalty.

Another One Goal Margin of Victory: In CONCACAF women’s youth championships, all matches between the USA and Canada have been decided by one goal or less, with the “or less” being the 2010 U-17 semifinal which finished 0:0 at the end of extra time and was decided on penalties. All the other USA-Canada match-ups were a the U-19/U-20 level: 2012, 2:1 USA win; 2008, 1:0 Canada win; 2006, 3:2 USA win; and 2004, a 2:1 Canada win in extra time.

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US Soccer Match Report
US Soccer MatchTracker (just a link to the subdomain, unable to find the permalink)
CONCACAF.com Write-Up
US Soccer Quote Sheet
CONCACAF.com post-match interviews with Jane Campbell and Albertin Montoya

US Soccer Post-Match Interviews:

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