The US women’s national team played the second of two friendlies last night against Canada, getting a 3-1 win in San Jose to follow up a lackluster 1-1 draw on Thursday in Vancouver.
Four Thorns—Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, and AD Franch—were called up on the American side, while Christine Sinclair played for Canada. Sinclair put in two solid shifts, going 90 minutes on Thursday and getting the assist on Adriana Leon’s goal with a clever over-the-head flick:
Rebecca Quinn with two chances off Beckie's corner, header then shot off the bar, ball falls and guess who? Leon scores to equalize!! https://t.co/p8Ez9Ypnec— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) November 10, 2017
Last night, the Thorns captain created the chance that led to Canada’s goal, picking Julie Ertz’s pocket and threading a beautiful long ball past the American defense to Nichelle Prince. Prince absolutely torched Abby Dahlkemper before cutting the ball back to Janine Beckie, who shot and scored:
For the US, Horan went 90 minutes in both matches, putting in a solidly okay performance on Thursday and a better one last night. In San Jose, Horan contributed to the second US goal, squeezing an overconfident Jessie Fleming to force a turnover:
Around the 65th minute, Horan set up a chance for Megan Rapinoe with a pass from deep, which Rapinoe almost put away. She also set up a shot for Christine Sinclair in the first half, with what looked, for all the world, like an attempt at an assist for her Thorns teammate.
Allie Long played for three minutes in Vancouver.
Both from the Thorns’ perspective and a USWNT fan perspective, there’s a lot to gripe about here.
First, as has become the norm, the US escaped the week with two results almost in spite of themselves. They didn’t deserve the draw in the first match. Canada didn’t quite dominate, but looked like the far hungrier team—and on a couple of occasions, it was sheer dumb luck on the Americans’ part that kept the ball out of the net after the Canadians’ first goal. The second match was quite a bit better from the USA, but still a far cry from “good,” with a healthy dose of sloppy defensive play to round out a mostly uninspired offensive effort. There’s still no clear system here, which is frustrating in itself.
What’s more frustrating is that Jill Ellis seems to think the squads she rolled out for these friendlies were something resembling her best XI. I say that because she clearly wasn’t using this as an opportunity to give less-experienced players some time on the field, as Canada did. Despite calling up a number of players with limited national team experience, she chose to play largely the same group she’s been using over the past six year. Current Stanford student Andi Sullivan was the only player who saw minutes who hadn’t already been capped in 2017.
In an abstract sense, that’s fine. Canada is a longtime rival, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting results against them.
There are two problems. The first is that Ellis’s perceived best XI has holes in it. One of them happens to be Franch-shaped.
The other problem is that Ellis also keeps crowing about “broadening the pool,” calling in bubble players like Franch, Sonnett, or Chioma Ubogagu—often with the intention of converting them to a new position, no less—only to have them ride the bench or not dress at all. Of course, simply being in the national team environment and getting the chance to train at that level provides some value to a young player, but these players aren’t young. Franch has been playing professionally for five years, and she was, by almost any measure, the best keeper in the NWSL this year. Sonnett has been a key piece of the league’s best defense for two seasons.
Sonnett’s situation is the most galling part of the whole thing. She went on loan to Sydney FC, presumably under the assumption she wasn’t likely to get called into camp anytime soon. Then, Ellis called her up anyway (passing over her Portland-based partners in crime, Emily Menges and Katherine Reynolds, in the process), telling her to get on a fourteen-hour flight to Vancouver, and didn’t play her. All the while, Abby Dahlkemper, who’s ostensibly better, is getting torched by people like Nichelle Prince.
If the next time Sonnett got a call from Ellis, she pulled a Darlington Nagbe and politely declined, who could blame her?