Any time Canada and the States face off in women’s football, fireworks are bound to explode. With the likes of Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and Christian Sinclair in full flow, the CONCACAF Women’s Championship Final proved to be an exciting encounter, filled with heart and desire en route to an American victory. Here is our analysis of the fascinating final.
USA – 4-3-3
The Americans set up in their favoured 4-3-3 formation, deploying the same starting lineup that they’ve prioritized in the build-up to this match. Crucial to the formation is the triangulation between Rose Lavelle and Lindsay Horan ahead of Andi Sullivan, and how they work to support the fluid movement of the front-three. On this day, that illustrious front-three included the pace and power of Mallory Pugh, the raw finishing of Sophia Smith, and the overall exuberance of Alex Morgan – leading the line from the front.Embed from Getty Images
In defense, Vlatko Andonovski set up with a ‘Stopper‘ in Alana Cook, supported by more of a ‘Sweeper‘ in Becky Sauerbrunn. He then used attack-minded full-backs in the form of Emily Fox (what a player), and Sofia Huerta, both of whom expertly handled their 1on1 situations on the day. Even in such a short time to develop rhythm and control, Vlatko Andonovski has clearly achieved a magnificent balance with his team, exemplified all ends up in the match against Canada.
IN POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
The Americans dominated possession for the majority of the match, and always looked the likelier team to score. They accumulated fourteen shots to Canada’s seven, and won a further seven corner kicks, highlighting their dominance in the final third.
Out from the back, Andonovski’s side built out from the back in a 2-3-2-3 shape. The full-backs pushed higher and in-line with Sullivan, where Rose Lavelle and Lindsay Horan then took turns dropping in for a cup of tea. Often times when one received, the other immediately followed as the next pass in the sequence, with the States verticality breaking the lines on more than a few occasions through both swift passing and Lavelle’s exceptional line-breaking dribbling. The 2+3 build-up also gave Andonovski’s side the advantage of becoming a 4+1 in response to the opposition’s press, where the full-backs could start lower, draw Prietsman’s side toward them, and then exploit space in between the lines to the likes of Lavelle and Horan.
Even as Canada put the pedal to the metal in pressing in a 4-2-4, USA still had the advantage with their five players in what we call a “bowl build-up” of 4+1. In this shape, Huerta and Cook remained particularly key to the circulation, spraying the ball forward on long passes over the top. Huerta had one incredibly successful moment in doing so in the second half, almost helping Morgan to a first goal of the night.Embed from Getty Images
As already noted, beyond these passes over the top that could instantly break Canada’s press, the States also took the slightly more methodical approach in progressing through the thirds, with Lavelle and Horan pulling the strings. Morgan could also take turns dropping deep and spraying passes through the gaps, where Pugh and Smith were clinical in racing behind the defense and going 1v1 against the keeper. Had they just put on the right finishing boots, the States easily could have scored more goals en route to an impressive victory.Embed from Getty Images
On the other end of the coin, Kailen Sheridan put up a colossal performance in goal, coming up with five saves to deny the Americans a lead until the 73rd minute. Emily Fox and Sofia Huerta were both brilliant for the States in advancing forward down the line, sometimes at the same time, and both illustrated an exceptional understanding of how and when to break free. Fox in particular impressed with her dynamism and precise ball control, and Huerta had the better of the chances between the pair. The wingers could then operate closer to Morgan as more or less ‘inverted wingers’, and part of an attacking trio that troubled Canada’s defense all game long.Embed from Getty Images
But in truth, even despite their dominance on the ball, the States accomplished their best moments of the match on the break. Lavelle and Horan were often the first outlets in breaking the team free, and they would drive at the Canadian defense until the right moment to release Mallory Pugh, Alex Morgan or Sophia Smith. They generated much of their chances through pressing relentlessly from the front, and then immediately hunting down the goal as they exploded on the break. Morgan and Lavelle were again key to that process, both putting up absolute masterclasses on the day.
OUT OF POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
The Americans excelled with their exuberance in possession, but shone even brighter off the ball. Their defensive work rate from back to front was exceptional, winning back possession in the final third on numerous occasions.
They pressed in a 4-3-1-2 shape, with Morgan hanging low and screening passes into the pair of Canadian midfielders in behind her. Lavelle and Horan would then step up to support the process, and often did so successfully in not only limiting Quinn and Scott on the ball, but annihilating them en route to winning back possession. The Americans again showed adaptability here in responding to the positioning of their opposition, with Lavelle combining in somewhat of a lopsided diamond to push and probe on Quinn as Morgan tracked Scott. Horan could then stay more or less in line with Andi Sullivan, helping to track the movement of Jesse Fleming as she floated up toward the American defense.Embed from Getty Images
During static play, this 4-3-1-2 shape continued, with a gap in between the front three and midfield three, enticing the Canadians into the false sense of security that they would have an easier time playing short. With Lavelle and Morgan on the case, backed up by the sheer energy and physicality of the remaining players, the Canadians were always going to have a difficult time playing out from the back.
CANADA – 4-3-3
Canada set up in the same way as the Americans on paper, with slight variations in actual tactical shape and ideologies. The key difference was in Jesse Fleming playing more like a ‘number 10’ as she often does for her national side, with Quinn and Scott firmly low in a double-pivot. Fleming would then step up all the more to support Sinclair in a 4-4-2 to 4-2-4 press, while Sinclair herself would drop to support build-up.
Allysha Chapman started the match as the only major omission from the eleven, with Ashley Lawrence starting on the left instead, and Jayde Riviere entering the fold on the right. Nichelle Prince, Janine Beckie, Kadeisha Buchanan and Vanessa Gilles all started as expected, with Christine Sinclair leading the line ahead of new OL Reign signing Jordyn Huitema. Kailen Sheridan also started in goal against her club teammate Alex Morgan, putting on a massive display to remember.Embed from Getty Images
Overall, Bev Prietsman’s side looked incredibly similar to the way they set up last year in the Olympics, en route to winning a gold medal over the Americans and Sweden. Her tactics, ideologies, and personnel have seen only minor tweaks over the past twelve months, and that perhaps allowed Andonovski to better predict how Canada were to play.
IN POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Out from the back, Canada deployed a 2-4-4 build-up with Quinn and Scott acting as a double-pivot, and the full-backs occasionally pushing up into the attack. Ashley Lawrence again played an important role in galloping forward, either on the overlap or underlap of Nichelle Prince, one of Canada’s few stars on the night. Sinclair also showcased her class in abundance, carefully selecting moments to drop toward the ball and bounce it to one of her teammates nearby on a one-touch.Embed from Getty Images
Unfortunately for the Canadians, what followed was often moments of low xG shot-finding, with Beckie, Fleming and others striking from range rather than looking to advance their team closer to goal. The Canadians needed to get Nichelle Prince on the ball more often down the left, and use her neat and tidy footwork in 1v1 situations to get beyond the stern American defense. Sofia Huerta was brilliant on the day in handling her defensive responsibilities, but the Canadians would have benefited from getting their most influential attacker on the ball in dangerous areas more often.
OUT OF POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
While the Americans exuded confidence in transition and pressed relentlessly, Canada struggled to match them stride for stride in every sense of the word. Their ‘box’ rest-defense of 2+2 was sound on paper, but often lacked enough engine and gusto going backward. As Scott and Quinn pushed into attack to combine with the central overloads and Sincy’s one-touch passes, they then vacated more space in behind for America’s lethal breakers to exploit. Lavelle and Morgan found themselves racing forward for fun, with the States often achieving easy overloads on the break of 3v2 or even 4v2.
Bev Prietsman’s side had slightly more success pressing from the front, where they employed a 4-3-1-2 static press, similar to the Americans. They then adopted to more of a 4-4-2 to 4-2-4 as the match wore on, and in the majority of dynamic play. This involved Fleming jumping up to press alongside Sinclair, attempting to limit the States’ circulation. This high press often prompted the States to go long instead, where they were successful in finding fun times on occasion, and completely gave the ball away in other moments.Embed from Getty Images
Positively for Canada, even when the States broke free, a combination of Buchanan, Gilles, and Sheridan were usually there to put an end to the attack, and put their bodies in the way. It took a series of unfortunate events for Canada to concede the penalty that Morgan banged home for the lead, and for that, the Maple Leafs deserve some level of credit for keeping the game deadlocked for so long.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
It takes a mighty performance to beat the Americans on even the best of days, and with so many top stars in full flow, there was no beating Andonovski’s team on Monday night. Canada put up a valiant performance in pushing and probing the envelope, but the States were the better team all ends up – from their dominance and control on the ball, to their relentless energy when pressing from the front. After their big win, the States have now qualified for the next World Cup and Olympics, with Canada still having all to play for in their quest to do the same.
So there it is! A match analysis of the States’ 1-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF W Final. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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