EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — It’s very tempting to discuss how big a role the field played in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw between the United States women’s soccer team and Germany. The slick turf at Rentschler Field directly led to Germany’s first goal in the 48th minute and it nearly re-gifted the favor to Abby Wambach 11 minutes later when a through ball skipped through to put her one-on-one with German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, but Wambach didn’t fool Angerer on the chip.
Alright, enough about the field. Even the result – a 2-2 draw, which follows Saturday’s 1-1 draw – is less important than what we saw play out between 18-yard boxes.
The United States looked far more comfortable on the ball on Tuesday and that is directly attributable to the team keeping the ball higher up the field. Germany sat in on Saturday and forced U.S. defenders to play out of the back, which is not a strength of this squad. That led to an opening 45 minutes that went just as planned on Saturday: long balls from the U.S. that the Germans gobbled up and turned the other way.
Tuesday, however, saw Megan Rapinoe and Shannon Boxx, in particular, find the ball far more often, in more advanced and dangerous positions.
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Becky Sauerbrunn’s insertion into the starting XI at center back in place of Rachel Buehler played a role in calming down the back line, which played better than the 2-2 score suggests.
Germany forward Dzsenifer Marozsan scored her first goal in the 48th minute on rain-induced mistake by Christie Rampone and Marozsan scored her second equalizer in the 85th minute on a left-footed upper-90 strike which Solo could do nothing about.
Both U.S. goals – Wambach’s in the 44th minute and Tobin Heath’s in the 67th minute – came from well-worked combinations in which Alex Morgan earned the assist.
So what do the U.S. women take from this match?
“The takeaway for me is that when we are played in and we’re fit, we’re a better team, obviously,” Wambach said. “And that’s good news because that’s on the horizon for us.”
That reliance on fitness and physical play isn’t anything new — it’s always been a staple of the U.S. and there is no reason to think that it will change soon (and as I noted in an earlier post, why fix what isn’t broken?).
But speaking of physical play, we did see yet another element of Morgan’s game come out in these two matches against Germany.
She is blazing fast, but we knew that from the start of her emergence with the national team. Then she started scoring late game-winning and game-tying goals before quickly establishing herself as a starter following the 2011 World Cup. This year her progression has been as a playmaker – those two assists give her 18 this calendar year.
Morgan, however, has only recently added a physical element to her game. She is going to need to be as defenses around the world try to chip away at her and get under her skin. Germany did that from the opening whistle on Tuesday and Morgan was ready to push back straight from the start.
“You have to expect the physicality that the Germans bring to this game,” Morgan said. “We’ve played them and now we know that if you take too many touches on the ball, they are going to tackle you, they are going to put some pressure on you, they are going to put a body on you.”
So, as we’ve alluded to previously, the feelings over these two draws is pretty mixed given the transitional nature of this squad. Two draws against world No. 2 Germany are nothing to scoff at (17-4-6 against Germany all-time), but interim coach Jill Ellis will now hand over the keys to the U.S. to Pia Sundhage’s permanent replacement. What comes once that change happens is anyone’s guess.
As Christie Rampone said postgame, the U.S. didn’t want to lose. Though that’s not quite the mentality you would expect from the No. 1 team in the world.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!