USWNT goes unbeaten vs. Ireland but still suffers serious loss: 3 takeaways

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St. LOUIS, Mo. — The U.S. women’s national team wrapped up the April international window — the Americans’ last pair-building games before coach Vlatko Andonovski names his 23-player World Cup squad FIFA Women’s this summer in Australia and New Zealand— with a 1. -0 win over the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.

Defender Alana Cook celebrated her 26th birthday by scoring the winning goal with a long-range effort just before half-time:

It was the USWNT’s second win over the World Cup-bound Irish in four days, following Saturday’s 2-0 triumph in Austin, Texas.

Here are three quick recaps of this month’s matches:

We (mostly) know the USWNT World Cup lineup

As he did in the first game of the year in New Zealand in January, and in the first game of the SheBelieves Cup in February, Andonovski went with what appeared to be his best starting XI in the first game.

Most of the locks were in the lineup last week: Alyssa Naeher in goal; Becky Sauerbrunn, Naomi Girma and Crystal Dunn in background; Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle in midfield; and Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson above.

Swanson, of course, will likely miss the World Cup after injuring his patellar tendon in Austin. But his wide forward position is likely just one of two still up for grabs, as veteran destroyer Julie Ertz, who came off the bench in both games, should be fit enough to start this summer in the ‘main event.

So Tuesday served as the final audition for lineup hopefuls like Cook, right fielder Sofia Huerta, 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson (who made her first career start, more below) and the six players who entered the bench.

“In the first game, I said that I wanted to see how the team works, the concept of the team and that I wanted to evaluate certain things from the perspective of the team,” Andonovski said. “In the second game, we weren’t as focused on the team concept. It was more about individuals.”

And while most of them performed well enough, none gave the coach any reason to consider replacing any of his regulars.

The lack of goals a little worrying for the Americans

The Americans scored just twice in open play over 180 minutes this month. Andonovski, for the record, said he’s not worried. He attributed Tuesday’s lack of completion to a lack of cohesion among players who are desperate to impress but haven’t had enough reps together to develop real chemistry.

The US was also a bit unlucky. Capt. Becky Sauerbrunn, a native of St. Louis who was honored before the game for winning her 200th career cap late last year, fired a header off the crossbar in a choreographed move less than three minutes into the game.

“It was the perfect setup, and I blew it,” Sauerbrunn joked afterward. But he also gave a lot of credit to Ireland for defending well against the Americans and not giving up many scoring opportunities over the two games.

“I think we just have to be ruthless with the opportunities we have,” he added. “That’s what you have to do against the best teams in the world.”

Alyssa Thompson can be part of the World Cup selection

Thompson wasn’t even with the team last week; she was only summoned to St. Louis on Sunday after Swanson, the team’s leading scorer this year, went down. Yet there he was in Andonovski’s starting lineup on Tuesday anyway. It didn’t look out of place at all.

Thompson was involved in two of the USWNT’s best attacking moments, selflessly dropping a pass from Morgan to Smith in the first half (she might even have taken the shot herself) and running between two defenders to get to a perfectly weighted pass from Ashley Sanchez. in the second before running out of room and colliding with visiting goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.

“As young as he is, I thought he came in with confidence and did everything he knows how to do,” Smith said of his teammate. “She came in and stepped up and that’s very hard to do.”

There is more to do, of course. Lynn Williams and Trinity Rodman are probably still ahead of Thompson on the coaching depth chart. Ditto for Megan Rapinoe, who missed this field due to injury. But World Cups are made for fearless young players. With Swanson ruled out, Andonovski is likely to make a splash on the talented youngster, who was still in high school when she made her international debut for European champions England last October.

Either way, Andonovski will have some extremely difficult decisions to make, although with the World Cup three months away, he now has almost all the data he needs to select the bulk of his squad.

“I feel pretty comfortable where we are as a team and from a decision-making standpoint,” the coach said Tuesday. “There is a group of players that we are very comfortable with and we can make decisions [on] tonight.

For the rest, the quest to win a World Cup will continue until the end.

“We have maybe 10 to 12 players fighting for six or seven places,” Andonovski said, adding that for those bubble hopefuls, their club performances will carry more weight than for the proven and established core . This is not the only factor, however.

“They will be evaluated [on] how their performances also fit into what we do,” he said. “That, in a nutshell, is what we’re looking at.”

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.

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