Friday March 6th, 2015

The United States women are one step closer to the 2015 Algarve Cup final after a 3-0 win over Switzerland on Friday. Alex Morgan scored the first goal after Lauren Holiday swung in a free kick from inside 30 yards, Amy Rodriguez added the second and Abby Wambach sealed the result.

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With another win over Iceland on Monday or perhaps even a draw, pending other results, the U.S. should make the final and reverse its disastrous showing at the 2014 tournament. Its seventh-place finish was the low point of Tom Sermanni’s tenure as manager, and his firing followed closely behind.

Coach Jill Ellis has her team playing better than its last European stint last month, when it lost to France and narrowly defeated England. Possible opponents in the final include Sweden and a rematch against France.

Here are three thoughts on Friday’s U.S. win over Switzerland:

• The U.S.’s first-half troubles continued. The U.S. has only scored once in the first half in the last five matches, dating back to a 7-0 win over Argentina in December 2014. (That lone strike was Morgan’s 50th career national team goal against England three weeks ago.) As they did on Wednesday against Norway, the Americans controlled the majority of the match despite failing to capitalize early on their possession advantage.

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And as they did against Norway, they scored just a few minutes into the second half, with an unmarked Morgan side-footing home Holiday’s 54th-minute service from six yards out. They also added a second before too long again, with Amy Rodriguez fighting off defenders to chip in from close range after Christen Press drove down the left side and forced goalkeeper Stenia Michel to parry her shot right into Rodriguez’s path.

• Press and Morgan made a more dynamic forward line than when Wambach plays. Despite Wambach’s leadership presence and history with the national team, it might be time for Ellis to contemplate dropping her to a reserve role for this summer’s World Cup. Her physical presence doesn’t have as much of an impact from the start of the match as it does off the bench, as seen in her goal against the Swiss.

Utilizing her pure speed, she picked off a panicked back pass and lobbed a difficult shot over Michel and inside the back post moments after entering the game. Especially if the U.S. continues to have first-half problems, having an option such as Wambach off the bench to run at tired defenders and challenge for every aerial ball could change matches positively for the U.S.

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• Switzerland will make its major-tournament debut at the World Cup, and its inexperience showed. U.S. forwards Morgan and Press dropped off early, holding a line of confrontation near the top half of the center circle. The Swiss defenders kept the ball among themselves, moving it from side to side, but as soon as it advanced, the U.S. pressed. Switzerland couldn’t play through the pressure, lofting aimless long balls forward that often landed out of play.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo made an important save on a hard shot from the top of the penalty area soon after the U.S. went up 1-0, but she remained relatively untroubled. She looked more comfortable controlling her penalty area than on Wednesday, punching a couple crosses well after dropping an early opportunity against Norway. Switzerland didn’t attack nearly as often, though, and Iceland should provide even fewer challenges.

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