Advanced Passing Stats – USWNT vs. England – SheBelieves Cup 2018

For this summary of passing stats from the USA-England SheBelieves 2018 match, as with past summaries of the USA-Germany match and the USA-France match, and I’m only going to look at open play passes. Open play passes excludes passes from dead ball scenarios – throw-ins, free kick passes, goal kicks, and corner kick passes are all discounted.

I will break down the passing stats by position groups. First, let’s look at the formations the teams used.

The Formations

The United States started the match with a 4-3-3 formation. The centerbacks were Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper, the fullbacks were Crystal Dunn on the left and Emily Sonnett on the right, the defensive midfielder was Allie Long, the other more attacking-minded center midfielders were Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd, the two forward wingers were Megan Rapinoe on the left and Mallory Pugh on the right, and the center forward was Alex Morgan.

Later in the match, after a pair of substitutions in the 74th minute, the formation changed to a 3-4-3. This after an own goal gave the United States the lead. The substitutions were Sofia Huerta, who played as a wingback, and Morgan Brian, who played as a defensive midfielder, for Long and Horan. The result was some shuffling around with the back three being Davidson, Sonnett moving into the center, and Dahlkemper; the two center midfielders being Brian as the defensive midfielder and Lloyd as the attacking midfielder; the wingbacks being Dunn on the left and Huerta on the right, and the front three still being Rapinoe, Morgan, and Pugh.

A couple of minutes later, after Savannah McCaskill was subbed into the game for Rapinoe, the United States took on an even more defensive-minded formation of 5-3-2. The back five still being Dunn, Davidson, Sonnett, Dahlkemper, and Huerta; the three midfielders being McCaskill, Brian, and Lloyd; and the front two being Morgan, Pugh, and later Williams who was subbed on for Pugh very late in the game.

The English started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation. The centerbacks were Millie Bright and Abbie McManus, the fullbacks were Demi Stokes on the left and Lucy Bronze on the right, the two defensive midfielders were Keira Walsh and Izzy Christiansen, the attacking midfielder was Fran Kirby, the two wingers started off as Ellen White on the left and Melissa Lawley on the right, and the center forward was Jodie Taylor.

Later in the match, after a pair of substitutions in the 51st minute when Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan replaced Taylor and Duggan, White played as center forward, Parris played as the right winger, and Duggan played as the left winger.

Finally, after Kirby was subbed off in the 74th minute for Rachel Daly, the English changed to a 4-4-2 formation with Daly taking the right wing, Parris moving to the left wing, and Duggan and White playing as the two center forwards. At times it looked like England would go back to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 on the attack when the Duggan would drop into a deeper role.

The Centerbacks

The two U.S. centerbacks saw more of the ball than any other position group, attempting a combined 159 open play pass attempts between Dahlkemper and Davidson, completing 89% and 81%, respectively. The two attempted a high number of launched balls and Dahlkemper had the most success, attempting 18 launched balls from open play and completing 56%, more than Davidson’s 7 attempts for only one completed launched ball. Dahlkemper completed 2/3 through ball attempts from open play and even managed to push up the field high enough to attempt and complete 2 crosses.

The two English centerbacks saw far less of the ball, with McManus attempting 35 open play passes and Bright attempting only 15, each completing 80%. The two passed the ball around between each other (or back to their goalkeeper Karen Bardsley) far less than their American counterparts – 69% of McManus’ and 53% of Bright’s open play pass attempts went forward, compared to 42% for Dahlkemper and 48% for Davidson. So, when McManus or Bright got the ball, they were more likely to drive it forward.

The Fullbacks

The U.S. fullbacks were secure with the ball, with the two with at least 10 open play pass attempts, Sonnett and Dunn, completing 91% and 92%, respectively. No other player in the game with at least 10 attempts had a higher completion percentage. Sonnett’s completion percentage is likely inflated due to the minutes she played as a centerback and the amount of her pass attempts that went backwards – 52%, the second-highest in the game. However, even from her more withdrawn role compared to Dunn, Sonnett was able to complete two through balls from open plays. Dunn didn’t complete a cross or a through ball, but she did have 50% of her pass attempts go forward, tied for third-highest on the team with Lloyd.

The English fullbacks had a lower completion percentage but were far more aggressive with their passes. Bronze and Stokes, the two English fullbacks with at least 10 open play pass attempts, had a lower completion percentage of 68% and 74%, respectively. A higher percentage of those pass attempts went forward, 64% for Bronze and 56% for Stokes, higher than the two U.S. fullbacks and higher than anyone else on their team with at least 10 open play pass attempts except Bardsley and Christiansen at 58%. The two combined for 5 cross attempts but Stokes completed the only one, 9 launched balls of which Bronze completed the only 3, and neither completed their one through ball attempt.

The Center Midfielders

The U.S. midfielders saw Horan with arguably the most contributions to the attack, while Lloyd had less pass attempts and a lower completion percentage. Long had the highest completion percentage of the three, 88%, but 41% of those pass attempts were going backwards compared to 33% for Horan and 20% for Lloyd. Lloyd mostly played as the #10, in a more attacking-minded role compared to Horan who played in more of a #8 role alongside Long. However, Lloyd was unable to even attempt one cross or through ball, while Horan, playing 20 less minutes, completed her 2 cross attempts and 3 out of her 5 through ball attempts.

The English midfielders were a mixed bag, with the defensive midfielders keeping a high completion percentage but their attacking midfielder, Kirby, struggling to pass the ball with a completion percentage of 69%. In the double pivot of Christiansen and Walsh, Christiansen was the more attacking-minded with 58% of her open play pass attempts going forward compared to Walsh’s 38%. Christiansen also completed 3/7 launched ball attempts, 1/3 cross attempts, and 1/5 through ball attempts.

The Forwards & Wingers

Out of the U.S. forwards, Rapinoe was the most aggressive with only 14% of her open play pass attempts going forward, the lowest of anyone on the field except for England’s Bright, compared to 44% for Pugh and 37% for Morgan. She had the lowest completion percentage of the three, completing 61% of her open play pass attempts compared to 70% for Pugh and 68% for Morgan, but she was the only U.S. forward to complete a cross (out of a game-high 9 attempts) and she was the only one to complete a through ball (out of two attempts).

The English forwards and wingers saw the ball far less and saw a variety of completion percentages, with Duggan completing 82% of her 11 open play pass attempts, Lawley completing 75% of her 12, and White completing 58% of her 12. White had a higher percentage of her open play pass attempts going forward, 50%, than any other forwards or wingers in the game.

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