July 14, 2012

Relentless Ride Propels U.S. Women Past Canada Red

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter 

Russell a Rare 9-to-5er on Coach-Heavy U.S. Team

U.S. rookie Danielle Etrasco lead the team in scoring for the second straight game Saturday with five goals and an assist in Team USA's 21-4 victory over Canada Red in the North American Challenge Cup.

© JC Pinheiro

OSHAWA, Ontario -- In the final minute of the U.S. women's national team's 21-4 win Saturday over Canada Red, Canadian goalkeeper Katie Donohoe stepped out of the crease to pick off a pass. She gained possession but had only a few seconds to enjoy it before American attackers Kelly Berger and Katie Rowan pounced on her and forced a turnover.

Team USA’s vicious ride kept Canada on its heels throughout the match, and allowed the Americans to dominate possession and the game.

“We just want to play from start to finish and always swarm the ball. It doesn’t matter what time of game it is,” said Rowan, who had three goals and two assists in the victory.

The ride is the centerpiece of the U.S.’s team-first philosophy. It requires high fitness levels and excellent communication, as well as well-timed substitutions for the midfield. But it’s one of the only strategies that engages all 12 players on the field, and the rewards are self-evident. Canada had 19 turnovers in the loss, cycled through three goalies and went 7-for-14 on clears.

The ride is as exhausting as it is effective. And to hear Team USA tell it, it’s also an incredibly fun way to play.

"When you’re in the ride, and you hear your teammates talking to you, you kind of forget hard you have to work to do it and how tired you might be. And that’s kind of what makes it fun," Berger said. "It's one of the most fun things that we do, and it pays off."

Midfielder Kristin Carr won Player of the Match for Team USA, thanks to a team-high five ground balls and four caused turnovers. Carr stepped up to take draw controls too, helping the U.S. to a 20-8 advantage.

"When we do the high pressure, we definitely like our opponents when they’re frazzled because they don’t really know what they’re doing with the ball,” Carr said. “That high pressure makes for a killer team 'D.'"

The mental and physical exhaustion proved too much for Canada, which never found a consistent way to score and never had a successful settled offensive set. Abbey Friend briefly tied the game at 1 on a fast break at the 22:54 mark of the first half before the U.S. went on a six-goal run that effectively put the game out of reach.

"You make them work to clear the ball. A lot of their turnovers that happened inside the 30 were based on the ride," U.S. coach Ricky Fried said. "It's kind of like an exhale moment, and then a turnover because they relax, and I think a lot of that is due to the constant pressure."

Canada scored four goals on 11 shots; U.S. goalie Devon Wills had six saves. Meanwhile the U.S. attack wove back and forth in front of the goal, creating space for cuts and finding teammates crashing the 8-meter arc from all angles. Attacker Danielle Etrasco led all scorers for the second game in a row with five goals and an assist. Midfielder Katie Schwarzmann had a goal and five assists. Team USA scored 21 goals on just 29 shots for a blistering .724 shooting percentage.

With the win over Canada, the U.S. improved to 2-0 at the North American Challenge Cup, and has beaten its opponents by a combined 41-4 margin.

For the North American Challenge Cup, Team Canada was divided into two squads, Red and White. The U.S. will play Canada White Sunday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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