Tobin Heath (right) scored twice for the USA Sunday night. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
FRISCO, Texas — The numbers are, well, simply numbing.
The U.S. women’s national team has dominated the 2018 concacaf Women’s Championship.
The Americans have outscored their opposition, 24-0.
They’ve outshot their confederation foes, 143-10.
And they’ve placed more attempts on target than their four previous opponents, 66-2.
But in the long run, these statistics will pale in comparison for what the USA is really shooting for — another world championship and attempt to try to become the second women’s team to win back-to-back WWC (Germany accomplished that feat in 2003 and 2007).
Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially with the likes of host France, Australia, Germany, England, Japan and Brazil among others, waiting in the wings for the top-ranked women’s national team in the world, most likely in the knockout rounds of next year’s Women’s World Cup.
On paper, at least, the group stages should be the “easier” part of the competition (we’ll see what transpires at the Dec. 8 draw). Then comes the trap door of the knockout rounds, from the Round of 16 all the way to the final. Quality teams, talented sides, players who can make a difference (ie. — Australia’s Sam Kerr, who is arguably the best women’s player in the world).
These knockout-round games will be tight, with little room for error. So, you want to make your rivals uncomfortable, put them on their heels and their back foot before they can do it to you. Literally.
One way to accomplish that?
Come out with a relentless high-pressure attack. Suffocate your foe at midfield. Don’t let them get their bearings and turn the match, when possible, into a half-court — or in this case — a half-field game.
This has been never more apparent at the CWC.
There is a real why head coach Jill Ellis and her staff has the team playing that style against inferior foes. And the only way to make it part of a team’s DNA is to keep deploying such a strategy again and again and again.
One reason is local: Inferior opponents tend to park a bus or two in front of the net and make life difficult for the favorite, hoping to pull off an upset with a goal from a set piece. The longer the game is even, at least on the scoreboard, the more the favored side sweats.
The USA has put in a lot of sweat early on in the CWC matches so it hasn’t had to sweat in the 11th hour. In all four matches, the Americans have scored inside of 10 minutes. That should break any team’s strategy of bus parking to try to get back in the match.
It’s pretty scary.
* Megan Rapinoe scored three minutes into the 6-0 trouncing of Mexico.
* Sam Mewis found the net six minutes into the 5-0 blanking of Panama.
* Alex Morgan struck nine minutes into the 7-0 rout of Trinidad & Tobago.
* And Tobin Heath took all of two minutes to strike in the 6-0 romp over Jamaica Sunday night.
That, of course, play to the USA’s strengths, athleticism, talent and depth at every position, which we have witnessed at the CWC.
But let’s be honest. The USA is out of the aforementioned sides’ league. Way out.
The Americans’ first real test of the tournament will come Wednesday night when they take on Canada, the fifth-ranked women’s team in the world, in the championship game at Toyota Stadium.
In one respect, the game doesn’t mean anything because both sides already have qualified for France.
But don’t tell that to either squad. They will be out to secure a victory and to play for pride.
Any time when the Canadian women face the USA, they play with a chip on their shoulder, playing second fiddle to the USA since the latter qualified for the very first Women’s World Cup in 1991 over them and brought home the trophy. They also remember the controversial semifinal win by the red, white and blue during the semifinals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
For the U.S., 2012 is ancient history.
The American women are focused in only one direction — the future — and another world championship. So, winning the concacaf crown is just another step to their ultimate goal.
So far, so good.
But can they be very good, perhaps exceptional, especially when it counts next June and July?
That’s what we’ll remember, not the devastation the USA has left in the CWC.