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In the year For those who didn’t follow through on the 2011 World Cup qualifying cycle — where the U.S. lost to Mexico in the CONCACAF semifinals, Alex Morgan eventually led the U.S. to the final against Italy — the matches against Mexico might feel familiar. Competition in name only.

The United States Women’s National Team has not lost to Mexico since 2010 and has not lost to a CONCACAF opponent at home since 2000.

Monday night threw that narrative out the window.

The USWNT suffered a 2-0 loss in front of a packed crowd in Carson, CA, and while it doesn’t quite match the lows of last summer’s 0-0 World Cup group stage draw with Portugal, the team’s final group game of this Gold Cup will (hopefully) show its new, unified identity. It was a useful reminder that he hadn’t gotten it yet.

What should concern most fans is how Monday’s performance was a reflection of the lackluster USWNT we’ve seen before.

But how much should we read into the 270 minutes played this year? How much does it change the losses that should occur before the Olympics? And why is unity still such a big problem?

Mexico provided an important challenge — and a reminder.

Mexico deserves full credit and praise for performing in all the important areas on Monday night. But equally, the USWNT has failed in most of these areas.

That failure can be useful if used correctly (see: friendly losses to France in 2015 and early 2019, both followed by World Cup titles). However, that was the takeaway for this American team for the time being. At some point, the players and coaching staff either step up or they don’t.

What does the US hierarchy want to get out of these games? If there was ever a time for the team’s young players to be allowed to settle in a tough situation, it was on Monday night after a first half with Mexico down 1-0 and a field full of unproven talent. Be tested. Let them fall, even! Instead, 34-year-old 217-gamer Morgan came on after the break. That doesn’t tell current head coach Twila Kilgore or incoming Emma Hayes anything about this team.


Morgan arrives in Mexico (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The USWNT’s mystique is gone, and the rising status of the rest of the world is only part of the story. The players used their collective name and mentality as a sword and shield – it told them something about themselves and something about the other teams they faced. Without it, they lost a weapon and another symbolic object.

Considering that the United States is still ranked No. 2 by world governing body FIFA, leaning toward old-fashioned care may be the game. Much has been written about the USWNT’s lack of joy since those strange Tokyo Olympics, but as little attention as possible: using anger for good as it is placed in the place of joy.

With a generational shift underway, young players hungry for recognition and results should reap every emotional advantage.

But first they have to enter the field.

Why is unity still such a big problem?

It’s important to remember that this Gold Cup is the USWNT’s first camp of the year and is still a prelude to a large portion of this roster playing domestically in the NWSL. That’s no excuse for the collaboration issues that plagued the USWNT on Monday, but it’s at least helpful context, given the massive personnel turnover that has occurred at the team level.

Centerpiece Naomi Grace feels that the key to solving this problem is immediate and long-term. While it’s possible to manage her workload, Magma has already risen to the level of a player you always look for on the field. She’s also just been through the World Cup – and was the USWNT’s best player in New Zealand and Australia.


Glory vs. Argentina (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“What was missing tonight was a little bravery under center and a willingness to play forward,” Kilgore said postgame. “No matter what number we have in front of the back line, the expectation is to play forwards, keep the ball moving, and sometimes it’s going to be off-balance and come back, but we need it. Play forwards.”

If the team’s identity is built on playing from the back, it looks like the 23-year-old will be the best defender for the toughest divisional game on the field. Girman has benefited from a more effective pairing with Argentina’s Tierna Davidson.

USWT defender Kelly O’Hara said on Monday that the team has been “stuck” in certain formations and tactics at times over the past two years, and that its performance against Mexico had the same feel as some of the team’s disappointing recent performances. On a night like Monday, it seemed like the USWNT stuck to the identity they wanted to project and stuck to some beautiful principles of the game that, while great in theory, sometimes need to go out the window when the game calls for it.

It’s impossible to tell from the outside that the coaching situation is playing a role here – everything from the team (in public, at least) from Hayes and Kilgore was very good, and until Hayes arrived from Chelsea in May, everyone understood the plan. .

Hayes’ absence up to that point is not good on many fronts, but it’s simply a reality the USWNT needs to address. The federation made the deal and now the team is dealing with the challenges of playing the continent under an interim head coach just months before the big tournament. It is not ideal and it is not something that can be changed.

How much can we read starting XIs and playing time?

For me, the answer is still “not much.” But here’s the lineup so you can watch all three games side-by-side…

Uswnt Vs. Dominican Republic Uswnt Vs. Argentina

Uswnt Vs.

A ride was promised by Kilgore, and she delivered. With the media after Monday’s game, she lightly addressed the question of whether that rotation has backfired.

“All the team is ready to play,” she replied. “The team is ready to play tonight. We could have gone with a lot of options, and this is the team we chose. I am confident that the team has the ability to execute.

Kilgore said it was important for all players to have opportunities in this tournament, but it is important for the team to perform.

“It’s not just about partnerships, it’s about systems, roles and responsibilities,” she says.

From my vantage point outside of the idiosyncratic bubble of the USWNT technical staff, the Gold Cup still feels like the right place for testing, evaluation and rotation. But if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.

(Top photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)