Tierna Davidson revolution among takeaways from USWNT wins over Chile

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The Stanford defender now heads back to her college team, but her emergence on the national team is one of the key developments for Jill Ellis' side

The U.S. women’s national team closed out preparations for World Cup qualifying with a pair of friendly victories over Chile in California: 3-0 in Carson on Friday night and then a 4-0 win on Tuesday in San Jose.

Jill Ellis’ side wasn’t always dominant over the two games, but its quality and physical superiority eventually showed in both matches. The U.S. will now enter next month’s Concacaf Women’s Championship, which also doubles as World Cup qualifying, on the back of a 21-match unbeaten run.

Here are five observations from the team’s two friendlies against Chile.


The Davidson revolution continues


Tierna Davidson Julie Ertz USWNT

Tierna Davidson didn't have a senior national team cap entering 2018, but the Stanford defender has already built a compelling case for why she should not only make the World Cup roster, but start in France next summer.

The 19-year-old displays a tactical awareness and calmness on the ball that belies her young age, and she was again one of the team’s standout players over the two matches against Chile.

On Friday night, Davidson scored her first international goal, took set pieces and showed her versatility by playing left back in the second half. It was more of the same Tuesday, as Davidson collected an assist while playing both center back and left back.

The sky appears to be the limit for the teenager, who will now return to Stanford to face games against Notre Dame and UNC on Friday and Sunday.


Mixed bag on injury news


Mallory Pugh USWNT

The U.S. has been playing shorthanded for much of 2018, with several key players sidelined due to injury. While the U.S. welcomed back some key faces over the two matches, the injury bug struck again in Tuesday night’s match.

Kelley O’Hara made her first national team appearance since March in a planned 30-minute cameo on Tuesday, a welcome sight for the team's likely starter at right back. Meanwhile, Mallory Pugh also returned to USWNT action for the first time since April and played in both matches, grabbing an assist on Friday and a goal on Tuesday.

It wasn’t all good news though. Casey Short left Tuesday’s game early with an apparent ankle injury. Additionally, McCall Zerboni was forced off on Tuesday with a fractured elbow. The injury is a huge blow to the NC Courage ahead of the NWSL playoffs, and also to Zerboni, who will likely miss the Concacaf Women’s Championship just as she was establishing herself as a key midfield backup for the national team.

Megan Rapinoe also missed the friendlies with a rib injury, but is expected back before World Cup qualifiers.


Lloyd set for super-sub role


Carli Lloyd USWNT

While Carli Lloyd was announcing herself as the game’s preeminent player at the 2015 World Cup, her teammate Abby Wambach was closing the curtain on an incredible career by shifting into a substitute role for the tournament.​

Wambach’s 2015 will likely become a model for Lloyd’s 2019 and against Chile, Lloyd showed she can fill that role effectively. Lloyd came on as a halftime substitute in both matches and injected some attacking dynamism into her team, nearly scoring in Friday’s game before netting a second-half brace in Tuesday’s match.

Lloyd will be nearly 37 next summer, two years older than Wambach in 2015, but she looks poised to be a bigger factor than Wambach was in Canada three years ago.


Midfield picture coming into focus


Lindsey Horan USWNT Australia

The U.S. has an embarrassment of riches to choose from in midfield, with far too many starting-caliber options available for the three spots in the team’s 4-3-3 formation. Despite the intense competition, the team’s midfield trio is starting to become more apparent.

Julie Ertz is a nailed-on starter at the base of the midfield. The former defender again displayed her tremendous work-rate and distribution against Chile. Lindsey Horan also looks likely to start in one of the other two spots, as the Portland Thorns midfielder continues to establish herself as one of the USWNT’s best players.

That leaves one spot available for the likes of Zerboni, Rose Lavelle, Morgan Brian and Sam Mewis. Of that group, Lavelle particularly impressed against Chile, finding pockets of space between the midfield and defense and relying on her aggressive attacking instincts to push the game forward.

Lloyd could also be an option, though she seems more likely to play forward at this point. It's safe to say this position is still very much up for grabs.


Set pieces still vital


USWNT celebration

The U.S. has plenty of options to score goals from open play but despite the team’s superiority over Chile, it mostly relied on set pieces to put the ball in the net.

Ellis’ team scored five of its seven goals over the two-game stretch from set pieces, with the U.S. enjoying a massive 23-1 advantage in corner kicks over the two matches. Against better teams, the U.S. may need to be even more reliant on scoring from set pieces than it was against Chile.

Though the team would rather be creating more from open play at this stage of preparations for the World Cup, its set-piece prowess is certainly not a bad plan B.

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