USWNT not in sync, unhappy after Dutch draw

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Players on the United States women’s national team know their performance against the Netherlands wasn’t good enough, but they expect to improve as the Women’s World Cup continues.

That was the message from USWNT midfielders Savannah DeMelo and Andi Sullivan who spoke to the media on Saturday after having two days to reflect on their 1-1 draw to the Dutch.

After a win and a draw in the first two games of the World Cup, the USWNT goes into the final match of the group stage against Portugal still unassured of qualification into the knockout rounds.

“I think the team is in a very good spot,” DeMelo said. “I think we are a very close team, so we really lean on each other and we’re going to be honest with each other.

“I don’t think we were very happy with our last performance and we’re OK with that — I think we’re just an honest group but we’re very hopeful and we know we’re going to get the job done.”

The Netherlands came out front in just the 17th minute of that match when Jill Roord finished in transition, and the Dutch dominated possession until a Lindsey Horan equalizer off a corner kick in the 60th minute.

Sullivan acknowledged that the USWNT wasn’t coordinated enough in the way they pressed the Netherlands, which created gaps on the field, particularly in the first half.

“It’s always a chicken-egg situation,” she said. “If you don’t step high enough, then it’s hard for people behind you to read. If people behind you aren’t reading it, then it’s hard for you to go.

“I think we weren’t in sync. That happens, and we were able to adjust and respond. Hopefully, we can do that earlier in the future. And I think that’s also a great strength of this team — we have lots of different ways we can do that together.

“Of course sometimes when you adjust, it’s going to take a second to get on the same page. We have full confidence in each other that no matter what we do, we will figure it out.”

The starting lineup rolled out by coach Vlatko Andonovski in both games at this tournament had never played together in a match prior to the World Cup.

DeMelo was named to the USWNT roster despite having no international caps, and she has gone on to start both of the USWNT’s games in this tournament so far. DeMelo came out in the Netherlands match at halftime to make way for Rose Lavelle, and she revealed on Saturday that she wasn’t told beforehand that was the plan.

Sullivan acknowledged that lack of playing time together as an 11 ahead of the World Cup could be one reason they haven’t been in sync. “That’s definitely a challenge that we’re going through: we just kind of came together,” she said.

Sullivan hinted that, despite the lack of familiarity with each other, there has been no apprehension to identify and call out needed changes.

“The way we get in sync is we watch a lot of stuff together. We communicate constantly,” she said. “We’re very direct when something’s not going the way that we want it to go — you have to be direct and clear and honest and loud.”

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