Thursday’s meeting between the United States and the Netherlands was billed as the decisive match of Group E at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, but clarity will have to wait a few more days. The USA and the Netherlands played to a 1-1 draw in Wellington in a first half dictated by the Dutch before Rose Lavelle entered the game and the Americans found their rhythm.
Jill Roord opened the scoring for the Netherlands in the 17th minute with a low strike from 17 yards out that went through USA midfielder Lindsey Horan’s legs and into the far corner of the goal. The goal came after Lieke Martens broke through the USA midfield, and evaded a challenge from Andi Sullivan before hitting the ball wide to Victoria Pelova, who had two cracks at finding an open team-mate. It was the first goal the USA have conceded in the group stage since the opening match of the 2015 World Cup.
From there, the Dutch controlled possession for the rest of the half, frequently hitting long, diagonal balls to Pelova, who had space on the right side as the US defense collapsed. The Americans, meanwhile, struggled to string together passes in the final third, frequently settling for individual duels as the Dutch defense wobbled but did not break.
Referee Yoshimi Yamashita allowed a physical match to ensue without issuing any yellow cards in the first half. Savannah DeMelo and Jackie Groenen were locked into frequent duels, with the Dutchwoman committing six fouls in the first half alone.
DeMelo started again in the No 10 position for the USA as head coach Vlatko Andonovski deployed the same starting 11 as he did in the team’s opening match against Vietnam. Lavelle replaced DeMelo to start the second half, and the US attack came alive.
Lavelle delivered a left-footed, in-swinging corner kick to the head of Lindsey Horan for the USA equalizer in the 62nd minute. The US were dominant on set pieces and continued to apply pressure from corner kicks – 11 on the day to only one for the Dutch – from the left foot of Lavelle. It nearly paid off again in the 83rd minute, when the Netherlands cleared a corner kick right to the feet of Sophia Smith on the edge of the area. Smith struck a stinging volley to the far post that was cleared off the line by Martens.
Netherlands coach Andries Jonker said before the match that he would not waver from the 3-5-2 formation that he has settled on since taking over the team last year, and he stuck with it again on Thursday. Defensively, the system shaped up as a five-back low block, which the USA traditionally struggles to break down. That was the case again on Thursday in the first half.
The winds shifted after halftime as Lavelle created in the middle of the park. The USA began to find Alex Morgan, pulling the Dutch out of their shape and opening up space for Smith and Trinity Rodman to run in behind.
Finishing was still at a premium for the USA, however, an issue Andonovski said the team needed to work on after the 3-0 win over Vietnam. The USA attempted 17 shots but put only three on target.
The 1-1 draw means the group winner will most likely be decided by goal difference, assuming the Netherlands and USA both win their final outings. The US face Portugal and the Netherlands will play Vietnam in simultaneous matches on Tuesday. The Americans currently sit atop Group E with a superior goal difference.