• Jill Ellis made seven changes to USA’s starting XI
• After two matches, Ellis has used all her outfield players
• The US coach explains the benefits of rotating her squad
By Erin Fish with USA
After scoring ten of the 13 USA goals in their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ curtain-raiser against Thailand on Tuesday, Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Megan Rapinoe didn’t even set feet to field against Chile five days later. It had nothing to do with what these players did wrong. It had everything to do with what this US squad, as a whole, does right.
Coach Jill Ellis views the depth of her group as one of its many strengths. She made seven changes to her starting XI overall, including the entire forward line, and her decision was vindicated. Carli Lloyd got two goals, Tierna Davidson got two assists – both players were promoted into the line-up – and the USWNT won 3-0 to reach the Round of 16.
After merely two matches, Ellis has used all of her outfield players. On Sunday alone, four different players made their Women’s World Cup debuts, namely Davidson, Allie Long, Jessica McDonald and Emily Sonnett.
Veterans Lloyd and Ali Krieger have both lauded the depth on the roster, avouching that every member of the squad is more than capable of doing a job.
“In terms of trusting the team, it’s kind of been this big-picture plan for a few months now, in certain rotations we’ve done and how we approach certain games,” Ellis said after the match. “I think what 2015 taught me is you can get suspensions, you can get injuries, you can get all of these things, and the more prepared you are to deal with these things, the better off you’ll be.”
The USWNT dealt with adversity throughout their build-up to, and triumphant run at, Canada 2015. One of the most prominent setbacks was the ankle injury that sidelined Morgan for two months leading up to the tournament.
While many feel getting minutes under your starters’ belts is paramount, Ellis believes there are multiple benefits to affording game time to her other players.
“We need all of them in a good place, and if they can have minutes and get rid of the butterflies and kind of get them out of the way, then that will help us down the line,” Ellis said. “In regards to load, it’s a lot of games in this tournament if you want to go far in it, so I think to take a game off of legs is hopefully a good thing in terms of total load.”
USA next face Sweden, who finished runners-up at the 2003 finals, in Le Havre on Thursday in a battle to finish top of Group F. If the USWNT avoid defeat, they will play the Group B runners-up for a quarter-final place.