Portugal shows Lindsey Horan’s USWNT could raise six concerns about Julie Ertz’s injury
It was the first game of the U.S. women’s team in two months, and they won’t play the most important game until another month from now. Thursday night was a key component of the friendly, but it was clear that coach Vlatko Andonovski wanted to make sure he managed to get anyone to the locker room before he arrived. So he spoke to midfielder Lindsey Horan as soon as the Americans got a 1-0 win over Portugal.
“I told him he was a monster on the field,” Andonovsky said afterwards.
He has been in power for less than two years and has yet to manage the USWNT in a major competition. So, despite the 18-0-1 record so far, it seems too early to name a good coach for the Andonovski national team. But Horan’s desire to secure a defensive midfield role that Julie Ertz normally led – number 6, in football parlance – suggested he could be a good coach to play at that level.
Andonovsky praised Horan (pictured below) for his “emphasis on aerial challenges, catching balls, controlling the game from the bottom of the field”. And he did all that when he asked. It wasn’t asked so often.
Portugal played a low block for the most part, rarely holding the ball, much less frequently advancing from the center line. It’s not uncommon for USWNT opponents to have a tremendous talent disadvantage and most of them are. The role of No. 6 is important, however, in games against teams like Sweden, the main opponent on July 21 at the Olympics.
It is not clear whether Horan will be in that position against Sweden. Ertz sprained his MCL in his right knee a month ago in the first NWSL game to get the Chicago Red Stars, and Andonovsky said he hopes to be healthy in time for the Olympics.
What is certain, however, is that the USWNT has almost reasonable depth except in all positions in this area. Tobin Heath, who started on the right side of the front line in the 2019 World Cup campaign, is injured in the ankle. Christen Press filled that spot against Portugal. He has 145 caps and 60 international goals. Carli Lloyd replaced striker Alex Morgan in the 73rd minute; Lloyd has scored five more goals in the game than all the women in history. Defensive defender Davidson entered the game at the same time; He played brilliantly at the start of the 2019 World Cup and can play on either the left wing or the central defense.
When Ertz (pictured below) was injured, however, there was no such obvious response.
There was reason to believe, however, that Horan’s gifts could well be translated into that attitude.
“Julie, of course, will always be such great shoes to fill,” midfielder Sam Mewis said in a subsequent Zoom call for reporters. “But I’m proud of Lindsey.”
Horan began his career as a striker for Paris Saint-Germain, and then went on a midfield attack after moving to Portland Thorns. Although he is named one of the most valuable NWSL players in the world in 2018, he has entered and left the U.S. lineup because the competition for positions is very extreme.
Horan started four of seven games at the 2019 World Cup, with Mewis five and all but one of Rose Lavelle. The latter two have given Andonovsky no reason to believe that former coach Jill Ellis was wrong to attack the pair so often in midfield positions; Mewis, in fact, scored the winning goal against Portugal with a sharp header from Press’s corner kick.
If his repertoire includes a defensive role, Horan will give him a different path in the starting lineup. His ability to cover the ground and his ability to make forward-forward passes allow Horan to play the way Xabi Alonso did at Real Madrid.
The only question is how effective Horan can be in stopping opposition attacks.
Horan got his first chance against Portugal in the 8th minute and surgically slipped the ball, which prevented Lavelle from taking the shot, making the free kick dangerous for the US. In the 25th minute Horan made a bet. he maneuvered but failed, leaving the door open for a bout that could have been punished by a better team than Portugal. Dozens of minutes later, Horan expertly disarmed another opposition counterattack.
“He’s never satisfied. He always wants more, ”Andonovsky said.“ The first thing he asked was when we saw the video.
“That makes us better.”