Why, for long-term gains, USWNT may be better off losing winter friendlies in Australia

10:52 am

The U.S. women's national team is going to play a pair of friendly games against a tough opponent on hostile turf. Australia, a team that has been on the rise thanks to the talent of players likeSamantha Kerr, is in this case.

The games are on Friday at 11 p.m. Tuesday at 4:05 a.m. The USWNT won't be easy to beat, but that's the whole point. The Americans want the games in Australia to be tough, and the players probably won't admit it if they lose one or both of the games. Losing paves the way for winning, as we have seen many times with the USWNT.

When the USWNT arrived in Japan for the Olympics earlier this year, they were riding a 44-game winning streak, and head coach Vlatko Andonovski had never lost a game since taking the helm. That didn't work out very well.

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In retrospect, is it any wonder that the U.S. players looked rattled in their opening game of the Olympics, when they were soundly beaten by Sweden? The USWNT's send-off games were in front of packed home crowds, something many teams in the Olympics couldn't enjoy.

The USWNT will play in front of fans in Australia for the first time since the World Cup in France in 2015, which saw a large American contingent travel to see the games. The USWNT's last away game against a hostile crowd was in Europe in January, when they lost to France.

Lindsay remembers the trip to France very well. She can't help but mention that loss when asked about playing in front of away fans. It's more difficult to play in an away stadium when you're going into the game. It's difficult when they have a 12th man, and I think the last time I did it was in France before the World Cup.

The USWNT won the 2015 World Cup after a slow start in Canada, thanks to the help of losing. The Americans went to Brazil and France in December and February of last year. Ellis said in an exclusive interview that he wanted them to struggle. It was going to be a challenge. We lost the game because it was hot, adverse and hard. I took them to France and they struggled.

She said that they learned more about themselves in those hardships. Without those struggles and losses, I don't think we'll win the World Cup.

He only had months to do so before the Tokyo Olympics because sports and travel were shut down. He wants to expand the USWNT's horizon, especially as he brings more youngsters into the fold. There are 12 players in Australia with 10 caps or less.

"It is important that we travel outside of the country and experience a bit of adversity and an environment where the opponents have that support," Andonovski said. It's important to be in a place that will be the host of the World Cup in 2023. We were able to do it more often in the last 18 months or so, but hopefully in the future we'll be able to do it more often. It's important for players that have never experienced that before.

The U.S. women are thinking about going away for a pair of tough games.

Fans of the USWNT have never accepted losing as a good thing. When the USWNT suffered back-to-back losses at home for the first time in 17 years, some fans called for Ellis to be fired, using the #FireJillEllis in case it wasn't clear enough. USWNT fans are used to winning, especially at home, and they were not upset that Ellis had won the World Cup.

"If we want to win the World Cup, things like this need to happen, because everyone's used to winning everything," Long told me at the time. The fans are angry. It shows a lot of passion.

Her words eventually rang true. The USWNT, including Long, became the first team to ever win back-to-back Women's World Cup. The USWNT lost to Europe in a friendly five months before the World Cup, which is a positive sign, and it's easy to see why.

Australia is as good an opponent as any, if losing is an option to make a road trip worth it. The emergence of raw talent led by Sam Kerr has led to the rise of the Matildas, who are now considered to be one of the best teams on the planet. She has an emerging cast of talent that Australian coach Tony Gustavsson is transforming from a direct counterattacking team into a possession-based, high-pressing collective. There are signs of progress, but it's still coming together.

Although soccer is a cruel game where the better side can still lose, nothing can cause a team to lose faith. Playing in a different environment will be good for the U.S. side, who looked too focused on the Olympics in Japan.

The USWNT's first trip to Australia in 21 years is notable. They traveled to Australia three times in 2000, the last time being the final trip for the Olympics. The Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023 is the reason behind the journey, but getting out of the U.S. may be the most important factor at the moment. Since the beginning of the year, just 10 of the USWNT's 84 non-World Cup and non-Olympics matches have been played outside of the United States. The rest have been at home.

Playing abroad isn't the only thing. The US used to go to Portugal annually for an invitational called the Algarve Cup, but it was a setting that provided little atmosphere and often under-powered opponents. Every year the U.S. Soccer Federation starts its own tournament called The SheBelieves Cup. Unlike the Algarve Cup, the games are played in three different cities.

Even if the games are played in the US, the SheBelieves Cup has turned into a valuable test-run for the real thing. There is no chance of a repeat of the USWNT's win over the Aussies in the bronze medal match of the Olympics.

The Australia federation said it has sold more than 35,000 tickets for Tuesday's game in Sydney, which would be the largest crowd to watch the Matildas in Australia. She said she loves that a lot of Aussies are rooting against the Americans. She said it was cool to score on them or shut up their fans.

If the Matildas have a good showing, that wouldn't be a problem.

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