There is a sense of inevitability in most matches involving the United States women’s national team. The opposition could hang on a bit in the United States. They could even threaten the goal on occasion. But ultimately, like a steamroller smoothing a new road, the United States will crush their opponents with their passes, presses and combinations around the box. The goals will eventually come.
But during the Olympic tournament which is due to start later this month, there is bound to be a game or two where the smart building game and defensive prowess of the American team is not enough. There will need to be a bit of magic, one-on-one play that challenges tactics and tenacity and provides a goal that will make the difference.
It was visible during Thursday’s game. Tobin Heath, who hasn’t played for the United States since November with ankle and knee injuries, came on in the 73rd minute and scored on a 30-yard rocket just 52 seconds later.
“It was huge. I wasn’t sure if I would come back to this place,” Heath said of the goal. “And obviously it took a lot of work and patience. Honestly, I had a lot of help, so I have a lot of people to thank for that. It helped me along the way, but I had to just take each day and you know I didn’t have a lot of time so I had to make the most of it. It was tough but I was really happy with it. “
US manager Vlatko Andonovski has rightly pointed out that Heath is by no means the only American player capable of scoring a scoring goal. The tastes of Megan Rapinoe, Alex morgan and Christian Press (who scored twice against Mexico) are among those who can also summon a moment of magic. In fact, Press’s play may well keep Heath out of the starting lineup. But a team can never have too many of these kinds of artists, and you never know which one will appear on the day. And the fact that Heath delivered such a spectacular finish allayed some concerns about his fitness and sharpness ahead of the Olympic opener against Sweden on July 21.
“Tobin has done very well so far in terms of returning to the game,” said Andonovski. “She is [worked] very hard, physically. Medically, she has nothing to hold her back, and there is nothing to worry about from that point of view. The only thing now is just to ‘play’ and she’s going to have it now. “
The team and coaches were almost as thrilled as Heath was, the striker receiving too many post-match hugs to count.
“I must say, [the goal] is very satisfying, very fulfilling, “added Andonovski.” It makes us all happy, especially for a player who has not played for a long time, and to score such a great goal on her second touch is all great. “
TO-BIN HEATH! TO-BIN HEATH! 👏
– American Football WNT (@USWNT) July 2, 2021
Heath was hesitant to go into details of her ailments, but she injured her ankle in January and, during her rehabilitation, injured her knee, forcing her not only to miss games with the States- United, but also the rest of the club season with Manchester United. Heath said a visit from her mother, Cindy, had helped her cope with the mental anguish of the injury. But the knee disease that followed forced a return to the United States, where U.S. Under-20 manager Laura Harvey helped Heath recover physically.
“Laura was instrumental,” said Heath. “It was the first time, personally, that I had worked with her. Obviously I had heard really good things about her, but she was really great on the football side of the comeback and it’s always great to have professionals around you, really pushing you. “
The rest of the night, the United States chopped Mexico through the meat grinder. The pressure was slowly building and it was Mewis sisters Kristie and Sam who concocted the breakthrough in the 21st minute. Sam’s deflected shot of Kristie’s pass hit the back of the net, resulting in a sibling celebration that was the first such goal in the history of the United States Women’s National Team. -United.
“[Sam] Texted me before the game and said, ‘If we score a goal between sisters, we have to bang each other’s chests afterwards.’ “said Kristie Mewis.” So of course it happens and I must like to remind him. I was like, ‘Sam! Sat ! So I ran over to her and we hit each other in the chest and it was just, I mean, it’s hilarious that it actually happened that way. But it really feels good. “
The press pocketed the second six minutes before halftime with a tap-in that ended a well-worked team goal that involved Lindsay horan, Sam mewis, and Rapinoé. After Heath’s brilliant goal, Press added their second with five minutes left with a skillful finish of Davidson tender‘s cross.
It was a complete team performance, which took place in a downpour. Andonovsky was impressed, for the most part, although he did have a few quibbles.
“It took us a little while to recognize the area and the space that we can break down into one movement,” he said. “So once you adjusted the moves and the timing, I thought things started to move in our direction. And the other thing that I was personally happy with was our high press.
“But I also think that’s Mexico’s credit. I think they did a really good job of breaking us beyond our threshold. And that’s something we’re going to have to sort out and do better.”
The two teams will meet at the same place on Monday. The United States hopes the meat grinder and magic will be on display.