Similar to the last post I wrote for the USA-GER match, we’re going to look at passing stats for the latest USA-FRA SheBelieves match, with an added look at specific types of passes such as launched and through balls. Like last time, we’ll only look at open play passes – which excludes throw-ins, free kick passes, goal kicks, and corner kick passes.
The United States started out with a 3-4-3 on offense that turned into a 4-3-3 on defense. In the 3-4-3; the back three was Tierna Davidson, Andi Sullivan, and Abby Dahlkemper; the wingbacks were Kelley O’Hara on the left, Abby Smith on the right, and Casey Short on the right after Smith was subbed out; the center midfielders were Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, and Savannah McCaskill after Horan was subbed out, and the front three forwards were Mallory Pugh, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Lynn Williams after Rapinoe was subbed out. On defense, the 3-4-3 would turn into a 4-3-3 with the wingbacks dropping back to defend and Sullivan moving up the midfield in front of the backline. In that 4-3-3, Crystal Dunn played as a fullback and Christen Press played as a forward winger
Later in the game, sometime after the 72nd minute after Sullivan was subbed out and an injury to Short, the 3-4-3 stuck to a 4-3-3 for the rest of the game. On attack the fullbacks would continue to move up, but no center midfielder dropped back to form a back three.
The French formation was a 4-4-2 throughout the match that at times turned into a 4-2-3-1 when on the attack. The centerbacks were Aissatou Tounkara and Mbock Bathy, the fullbacks were Amel Majri on the left and Marion Torrent on the right, the center midfielders were Amandine Henry and Onema Geyoro, the wingers were Eugenie Le Sommer on the left and Viviane Asseyi on the right, and the forwards were Gaetane Thiney and Valerie Gauvin. Gauvin was later replaced by Kadidiatou Diani. Thiney was the more withdrawn of the two forwards, often dropping back deeper to receive the ball.
I will go over the passing stats for each group. Scroll to the bottom to see the complete table.
In the U.S. backline, Sullivan’s role was largely spent passing sideways – 56.7% of all her open play pass attempts went sideways, the highest of anyone on the field with at least 10 open play pass attempts. Dahlkemper and Davidson were more forward-minded, with 56.7% and 51.9% of their open play pass attempts going forward, respectively. For the French centerbacks, Tounkara and Mbock’s breakdown of open play pass attempts by direction were similarly more forward-minded, with 53.6% and 63.0% of their open play pass attempts going forward, respectively.
There was a great difference in passes attempted, with the three U.S. centerbacks combining for 181 open play pass attempts, compared to 55 for Tounkara and Mbock, showing just how much time the ball spent going through the U.S. backline during the game.
There was also a great difference in the types of passes attempted. The U.S. centerbacks combined for 23 launched balls and 4 through balls out of open play. No other position group, U.S. or French, got even close to attempting as many launched balls. Dahlkemper even drove forward far enough to attempt a cross. The French centerbacks, however, even with less launched balls and only one through ball attempt, were the ones to get goal out of their efforts – Mbock’s through ball to Le Sommer in the 38th minute led to the score that drew the match for France and registered as a key assist.
The U.S. fullbacks were a mixed bag, with O’Hara finishing the match but three different players playing on the other side of the field. O’Hara’s was the more involved, attempting 34 open play passes while the other three combined for 25. O’Hara’s 73.5% completion percentage was the highest of any of the fullbacks with at least 10 pass attempts. The entire group of U.S. fullbacks in open play only amounted to 3 launched ball attempts of which one was completed by Short, 0 through ball attempts, and 3 cross attempts that were all incomplete. Short appeared to have been on her way to an offensive-minded day with 5 of her 8 open play passing attempts going forward until she got injured.
The French fullbacks, meanwhile, were much more present on offense. The two combined for 60 open play pass attempts, one short of the U.S. fullbacks’ 59, but appeared to attempt more on the attack – 63.6% of Majri’s open play pass attempts went forward while it was 74.1% for Torrent – even if their success rate wasn’t as high. Majri competed only 54.5% of her open play pass attempts, while Torrent completed 66.7%. Majri was 1/6 on launched balls, 1/2 on through balls, and 1/5 on crosses. Torrent was 2/6 on launched balls, 0/2 on through balls, and 1/2 on crosses.
The Center Midfielders
The U.S. center midfielders were a similarly mixed bag, and possibly a story of what could have been had McCaskill played for the full 95 minutes. Brian attempted 26 open play passes, the most of any U.S. midfielder, and had a completion percentage of 73.1%, higher than any other U.S. player with at least 10 pass attempts who wasn’t a defender. But McCaskill attempted 20 in just 49 minutes which was on pace for 38.7 passes (let’s say we round it up to 39) in 95 minutes. The biggest knock against McCaskill’s passing numbers is her 65% completion percentage, the third lowest in the game for a U.S. player, likely explained by 65% of her passes going forward, second in the entire game only to Torrent if you exclude the goalkeepers. Horan, who played the entire first half, and Lloyd, who played the last 22 minutes, simply didn’t get off enough open play pass attempts. Between the entire group, they were 1/4 on launched balls and 1/1 on through balls thanks to McCaskill.
The French center midfielders were more involved. Henry attempted 36 open play pass attempts with a completion percentage of 80.6%, while Geyoro attempted 24 passes with a completion percentage of 70.8%. They combined for 5/11 on launched balls and 2/8 on through balls thanks to Henry’s two through ball completions.
The U.S. wingers had the lone goal for their team – a goal by Pugh coming off a chaotic set piece. In the open play, they had a tougher time driving the ball forward. Pugh attempted the most passes, 20, but had a 55% completion percentage, the fourth lowest in the entire game of anyone with at least 10 pass attempts. Williams, who played the entire second half, attempted 13 passes but completed 46.2% of her pass attempts, the lowest in the game. Rapinoe, meanwhile, attempted 10 open play passes and completed 7 of them, but only played the first half. Not a single of the U.S. forward wingers completed a through ball and Press, who only played 18 minutes and attempted 5 open play passes, had the only two completed crosses.
Meanwhile, Le Sommer attempted 30 open play passes and completed 80% of them, higher than any other midfielder in the game with at least 10 pass attempts. Asseyi had less pass attempts, 18, and a lower completion percentage, 72.2%. They each completed one through ball, and Asseyi completed one cross.
Morgan had 17 open play pass attempts, a 70.6% completion percentage, and 52.9% of her pass attempts went forward. That was a higher completion percentage and higher percentage of passes going forward than any of the other U.S. forward wingers. Morgan was 0/1 on launched balls and 1/2 on through balls.
Thiney, meanwhile, had more pass attempts, 29, a lower completion percentage, but appears to have been far more aggressive in driving the ball forward from her withdrawn role. She was 1/2 for launched balls, 3/6 on through balls, and 0/2 on cross attempts. Gauvin, meanwhile, often the lone striker at the top of the French formation, attempted 16 open play passes and racked up a higher completion percentage than Morgan or Thiney, 81.3%, but more of her pass attempts, 43.8%, were going backwards, likely to pass on the ball onto an teammate running towards the goal.