USWNT advance to Round of 16 despite uninspired scoreless draw vs. Portugal

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 01: Inês Pereira #1 of Portugal attempts to clear a ball as Alex Morgan #13 of the United States goes for the header during the second half of the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group E match between Portugal and USA at Eden Park on August 01, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)
Alex Morgan and the USWNT are into the Spherical of 16 regardless of being held scoreless of their Group E finale versus Portugal. (Picture by Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Pictures)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — It was nervy. At occasions, it was panic-inducing and alarming. However the U.S. ladies’s nationwide staff is on to the Spherical of 16 right here on the 2023 World Cup — barely, by the margin of a goalpost.

The People had been uninspiring and anxious over 90 minutes towards Portugal on Tuesday. They arrived at Eden Park atop Group E; they entered the ultimate half-hour clinging to second place. In stoppage time, Portuguese striker Ana Capeta waltzed by the U.S. protection, and beat goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

However her low shot struck the submit and caromed off to security.

The U.S. held on for a 0-0 draw, which secured its development to the knockout phases.

The Netherlands, in the meantime, walloped Vietnam, 7-0, relegating the U.S. to runner-up standing, and prone to a tough matchup Sunday towards Sweden.

Very like 5 days earlier, the U.S. started on the entrance foot, then pale with stunning ease. It created a smattering of possibilities. However its first-half efficiency, on the entire, triggered a smattering of boos from the 42,958 followers in attendance. It was sloppy and gradual, peculiar and unimaginative. Portugal was the staff that possessed the ball, and accomplished 218 passes to the USWNT’s 164. Jessica Silva was the participant who drew oohs and ahs from the group, and bumped into acres of house for the cleanest probability of the half, within the sixteenth minute.

Portugal, the No. 21 staff on the earth, performed with confidence and aptitude.

The U.S., supposedly No. 1, performed with hesitance.

Its press was inconsistent and disjointed. Its midfield, at occasions, appeared invisible. No person appeared to need the ball. And those who had it struggled to attach easy 1-2s, or despatched uncontested passes out of bounds.

Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith arrange Lynn Williams, who began forward of Trinity Rodman, for the 2 greatest American probabilities of the primary half, however one Williams header was weak, and her poked half-volley sailed over the crossbar.

The half then went from dangerous to worse when Rose Lavelle slid into a careless deal with, and picked up a yellow card. She’ll be suspended for the Spherical of 16.

Across the begin of the second half, hearth alarms started screeching inside Eden Park. They had been false alarms, however frighteningly poetic.

U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski pulled Sophia Smith after 60 minutes, and inserted Megan Rapinoe in an try to inject life into the sport. The People improved barely after the break, and largely snuffed out Portuguese assaults. Ultimately, that’s all they needed to do. However their efficiency nonetheless left a lot to be desired.

Their group stage had already been filled with hand-wringing. Their 3-0 win over Vietnam was accompanied by frustration. Of their 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, they admittedly “weren’t in sync.” Forward of Tuesday’s decider, they had been feeling “a little bit little bit of anxiousness,” Megan Rapinoe acknowledged.

She claimed it was nothing new; that “we go into these moments like, ‘Hell yeah, that is precisely the place we wanna be.’”

However these first two video games, each enough but unsatisfactory, proved expensive. They didn’t remove the U.S. They did, nonetheless, go away the U.S. trailing the Netherlands on aim differential, and destined for a harder Spherical of 16 matchup with Sweden.

They had been additionally an indication of extra alarming issues to come back.

The gamers have claimed that they weren’t anxious. “We knew we had been gonna need to construct into the match,” Rapinoe mentioned Sunday. They nonetheless have each alternative to try this, 4 video games to win, 4 do-or-die events.

It’s simply that the primary will possible be towards the Swedes, who beat the U.S. 3-0 of their final assembly on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

And the USWNT must be a lot, significantly better than it was Tuesday evening.

That Spherical of 16 sport will probably be Sunday in Melbourne (5 a.m. ET, Fox). A win would earn the People a quarterfinal date with both Norway or Japan subsequent Friday, Aug. 11 (Wednesday, 3:30 a.m. ET, Fox), in Auckland. There may be nonetheless each expectation that the U.S. will certainly get there and past.

However it’s more and more clear that the hole has closed; that the USWNT is one in all eight or 9 contenders, relatively than one in all one favourite.

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