As the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup resumes, the USWNT returns to their club team after two trouncings of Uzbekistan over the international break. Almost every player on Vlatko Andonovski's roster received the opportunity to present their skills in front of the world. In two matches the United States netted 18 goals while only one goal was allowed. It is just another confidence booster after a SheBelieves Cup victory back in February. Nothing seems to be stopping the freight train of the USWNT as the young squad venture back to their clubs before some of the most important international football will take place in Mexico for the first time in CONCACAF Women's World Cup Qualifying history.
The USWNT had no problem against a team that has never qualified for the Olympics or the World Cup in their team history. While the one goal conceded was a disheartening moment for the United States as its clean sheet record at home has come to an end after about 25 months. The last time an opposition netted just one goal against the USWNT on their own home turf was Japan in a 3-1 win in the SheBelieves Cup in March of 2020. Three players during these two friendlies scored the first international goal of their careers, including Jaelin Howell, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Sanchez. Andonovski and the rest of the squad move past these two record-breaking performances and have their eyes set on a potential return to the World Cup in 2023.
Following the 9-0 win over Uzbekistan, USWNT veteran Rose Lavelle talked about what he expects heading into the summer, stating, "In qualifiers, we’re potentially going to face teams that sit in a low block. I do think playing games like these help prepare us for those moments. Playing in the NWSL, the competition is hard every day, so we have a lot of players that have experience in that. So when the time comes for us to play a team that’s not sitting in a lower block, I think we’re prepared for that as well."
This past international break was an offensive explosion for a team that has scored eight or more goals in a single match four times in the last seven months. The depth and versatility of the United States attack make this team truly one of a kind. A combination up top including the next star of the USWNT Catarina Macario, Mallory Pugh, and even Portland Thorns stud forward Sophia Smith would cause any defense loads of chaos. Throw in Trinity Rodman, Margaret Purce, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch, and the variety of ways Andonovski can attack the opponent is practically boundless.
The defensive side of the pitch uses a combination of veteran leadership and youthful young defenders that can influence the attack in a multitude of ways. Emily Fox and centerback Alana Cook demonstrated that they could be the future of the defense as Kelley O'Hara keeps getting older. The real question for the USWNT is if the veterans that the world is used to seeing like Megan Rapinoe are going to get the call-in for the qualifiers in July or even during the window in June?
Despite the finishing ability, the frontline showed in the previous friendlies, challengers are always an essential sight to see. Christen Press has been ripping it up for Angel City in the Challenge Cup, and if she keeps playing the way she is, Andonovski should bring her in to give some of the younger players a test against someone with plenty of experience. These players would also bring some knowledge when it comes to knowing what to do when it is not going their way.
Right now it is all sunshine and rainbows, but the world still has no idea of how the USWNT will react to any sort of adversity. Uzbekistan never really sat back and tried to defend for most of the match, and waited for the perfect time to break away for a counter. In more important matches, like in the SheBelieves Cup, teams will sit back and force the United States to beat their combat defense.
It is looking right now that it is going to be just two more matches before the World Cup qualifiers in Mexico. There is a lot left for this team to figure out. These past two contests against the 48th ranked team in the world did not pose much of a threat to a United States team that has an overwhelming amount of quality. Six groups and 30 teams fought for the right to participate in the CONCACAF W Championship. Teams like Mexico showed their ability to score in a variety of ways, and defend with a sturdy backline that did not let in a single goal during qualifying. These attributes were not only demonstrated by Mexico but shown by teams like Panama and Jamaica could cause some potential problems for the USWNT.
With that qualification round over, the United States players return to their club teams before they make their final preparations before the meaningful action begins. The performance during this past international break was what most people expected, but in order for this team to be ready for what the CONCACAF will bring them, the competition level needs to be elevated. Many bright young stars started to cement their place on the USWNT as the team constantly reveals to the world why they are the world's No. 1 team and the perfect example of how to produce elite talent in the women's game.