Australia has fought to a draw with current World Champions The USA. Goals to Ashely Hatch and Kyah Simon in the opening and closing minutes meant that the game ended in a stalemate.
It was another nightmare start for The Matildas, a turnover in midfield allowed Lyn Williams to dissect the Australian defense. Ashley Hatch was on hand tap home from six yards basically unopposed despite being surrounded by Australian players.
The Americans looked sharper in attack but Kyra Cooney-Cross almost leveled the scores with a half volley that bounced off the upright. Ellie Carpenter and Hayley Raso were industrious along the right flank without finding the right end product.
The Matildas began the second half much more positively, Kerr and Raso linked up to race down the field, Kerr’s shot missed the target after turning two defenders.
Lynn Williams was Australia’s tormentor again in the second half. After finding space on the edge of the area her shot curled inches wide of the far post. A close-range header from the American striker somehow flew over the bar.
Kyah Simon leveled the scores as the clock approached full time. Clare Wheeler won the ball in midfield. Sam Kerr held it up well and played it back to the Tottenham striker who scored courtesy of a deflection.
THE DEFENSIVE ISSUES ARE NOT WITH THE DEFENDERS
Australia’s inability to prevent goals against them is well documented but the problem is not the players in the defense themselves. Admittedly there is a depth problem beyond Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy, but Nevin was outstanding in the center or defense.
The USA were able to attack with ease because of the space in midfield. Neither Van Egmond or Kyra Cooney-Cross are natural defensive midfielders. Both are creative with the ball but do not play in the number six role at club level.
The starting lineup included van Egmond, Cooney-Cross, Yallop and Fowler in midfield. All are top-class attacking players but once the ball was turned over, the instinct to cover space or track runners was visibly absent.
Overlapping runs and unopposed American attackers were a constant issue. The Matildas gave the opposition too much space to carry the ball and pick passes.
The answer must be to find and utilize players who are not just comfortable as defensive midfielders but experienced at it. Clare Wheeler’s absence from the first 11 remains puzzling.
RASO MUST START
She was returning from a long injury absence coming into this camp, but Hayley Raso showed why she is so important to this Matildas side.
She was aggressive going forward, committed to chasing down seemingly lost causes, and one of the only players in the midfield running hard in both directions.
She plays with bravery bordering on reckless and immediately puts defenders on the back foot when she gets the ball. Put simply, she is not easy to play against.
Raso came off the bench in the first game. But her abilities with and without the ball mean make her almost unique. Only Ellie Carpenter shares similar attributes, having them both on the same flank is a significant asset for Australia.
Tony Gustavsson has been consistent in his message that the finishing 11 is as important as the starting team. But Raso is a menace and puts Australia on the front foot.
If she is fit to train, she must be used from the start of matches.
CAITLIN’S ABSENCE WAS COSTLY
Caitlin Foord is a fixture in the side for good reason. Years of football together has given her an almost telepathic understanding with Sam Kerr upfront and Steph Catley on the left flank.
Foord was voted as Australia’s best player in the first game on Saturday. She warmed up alone before tonight’s match and withdrew from the match before kickoff.
The Arsenal striker’s ability to hold up the ball under pressure was sorely missed in the first half. She takes the pressure off her teammates and is capable of tracking back to help out defensively.
Foord also gives the forward line more versatility. She can swap roles with Sam Kerr and has a habit of scoring against the U.S.A. Her absence from the squad in the second game was significant.
International Freindly, McDonald Jones Stadium
U.S.A 1 Ashley Hatch (4m)
Australia 1 Kyah Simon (88m)