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The USWNT will be looking to make amends
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Despite their disappointing campaign at the Women’s World Cup 2023 and the ongoing uncertainty around the side, the USWNT were strong favorites to beat Colombia on Thursday with the best online sportsbooks.
But they did not live up to expectations. The first installment of this double-header finished 0-0, as Colombia successfully held the USA at bay. Alex Morgan missed a penalty toward the end of the first half, and the home team was profligate with chances from open play too.
If the home fans hoped for a fast start from the USWNT, they were left disappointed. It took a while for Twila Kilgore’s side to find their rhythm against a well-marshaled Colombia backline. They struggled to put the visitors under sustained pressure for long periods.
Things improved after half-time as the USA began to fashion more opportunities. But again, Colombia stood strong. Even a host of substitutions could not inject the impetus that the Stars and Stripes needed.
So while it is true that the USA could have emerged triumphant had their finishing been less wasteful, it is also the case that their all-around performance left a lot to be desired. A big improvement will be needed if they are to come out on top in California this weekend.
Indeed, this represented a step backward from the two defeats of South Africa in a pair of friendlies last month. Kilgore was never likely to land the manager’s job on a permanent basis anyway, but her outside chances were not exactly boosted by the display on Thursday.
Until they appoint a new head coach, the USA is in a state of limbo. There is not a lot of time to waste either: the Gold Cup is coming up early next year, followed by the Olympics. There are still plenty of question marks around the USWNT.
By contrast, Colombia is in a good place right now. Angela Marsiglia replaced Nelson Abadia after the World Cup, but the team barely skipped a beat. It was a particularly impressive showing when you consider that, unlike the USA, Colombia had not played since the summer tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
That was a successful event for Las Cafeteras, who reached the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first time. They did so in some style, too, finishing top of their group thanks in large part to a stunning win against Germany.
They were not done there. Colombia proceeded to beat Jamaica, another surprise package, in the round of 16. They gave a good account of themselves in the quarter-finals, too, losing only narrowly to an England team that went on to finish as runners-up.
In the men’s game, Colombia is a contender to be the next first-time winner of the World Cup. It is a country with plenty of cities (soccer hotbeds tend to be urban centers), a love for the game, and a substantial population.
There is no reason why the women’s team cannot continue to progress either. There is plenty of quality at Marsiglia’s disposal, and this team has already shown it can compete with so-called bigger nations, both at the World Cup and against the USWNT on Thursday.
Colombia have already qualified for the Olympics, where they will look to demonstrate their credentials once more. Before that, they have another chance at an upset against the USA.
This is likely to be Kilgore’s last game in charge of the national team, with the US Soccer Federation keen to get a new coach in place before the two friendlies against China scheduled for early December.
She will be determined to go out on a high, but the USWNT must deliver an improved display if they are to get the better of a dogged, well-organized Colombia side. A repeat performance will not be enough.
It is not like the USA is short of talent. Their roster is still one of the most gifted in the women’s game. But there is not enough coherence to their play right now. That might not change until a new manager is in place.
In the modern game, talented individuals are rarely enough. Offensive and defensive structures of play are essential. Kilgore is an astute coach, but having an interim manager for so long is not good for anyone.
Even so, the USA should prove too strong for Colombia on this occasion. They have more strength in depth and could rotate after Thursday, which would make life difficult for the South Americans.
Teams: USWNT vs Colombia
Location: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, United States.
Date and Time: Oct. 29, 2023, 5.30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: TNT, Telemundo
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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