Pa Doug McIntyre
Posted by FOX Sports Soccer

Four days later US Women’s National Team joined the European champion England — the Americans’ first loss in more than a year — the USWNT suffered another loss Tuesday in Spain in their second October friendly.

Maiton Lopez in the first half in Pamplona scored against the smaller hosts, and after that the USA could not respond Esther Gonzalez with a magical touch in the second match, she doubled her country’s advantage and secured a 2-0 victory.

Here are three quick thoughts on the match and this month’s international window in general.

The US missed Alex MorganMal Pugh this month

La Roja didn’t have nearly all of their first team (more on that below) but acted like a team that could prove anything. The US, meanwhile, was completely toothless in attack on Tuesday except for veteran forwards Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh.

Morgan and Pugh were members of the American team that won its fourth world title in France three years ago. Both were in brilliant form for clubs in the National Women’s Football League. But neither could make that high-profile trip to Europe to compete with the only two teams to take the U.S. to extra time in the knockout stages en route to winning the 2019 World Cup. (Morgan was injured and Pugh had family commitments.)

Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman started those two games instead. And while both talented youngsters showed glimpses of what they are capable of against England – Smith equalized while Rodman’s clear goal to put the visitors 2-1 up was ruled out for phantom offside — the couple fought hard in Spain.

Even with Megan Rapinoe those games showed that the US still needs the experience and pedigree of Morgan and Pugh. This probably also applies to the 2023 World Cup. Assuming Rapinoe, who turns 38 next summer, takes Carli Lloyd super replacement, Smith, Rodman and others will be left to fight for the last forward spot in the lineup of Vlatko Andanowski. That would be a high-quality challenge for the US coach, and one he’ll no doubt want after these two contests show the backups aren’t quite ready for prime time.

Defensive questions remain ahead WC-2023

Andanovsky made four changes to the squad that started in London last week. The fact that none of them were in the midfield or in the forward line spoke volumes. With just 10 months to go before their title defense begins, big questions remain in the back line and in goal.

Captain USA Becky Sauerbrunn also turns 38 before the World Cup; will she play at the level that has made her a defensive mainstay for the USWNT over the past two cycles? Maybe a veteran quarterback (and new mom) Crystal Dan get your original job back? Who will be in networks, a stable vet Alice Nacher or Casey Murphywhose acrobatic save in the second half on Tuesday kept the USA in the match before Gonzalez made the save?

The coach will hope that the home friendlies against the team will end in November of the year Germany — another elite enemy — provide greater clarity than the previous two games.

This month was not only football

No one should forget that these two October games came after former Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates devastating report which exposed a culture of systemic sexual and psychological abuse in the US NWSL and the women’s game more broadly.

Earlier start last Friday against Lions in a sold-out Wembley Stadium, both teams stood together on the pitch a moment of solidarityholding a sign that read “Protect the Players”.

It is an attraction that transcends borders.

The Spanish team that the USA faced in Pamplona was missing 15 regulars — plus the captain Irene Paredes and Ballon d’Or Féminin 2021 winner Alexia Putelas, considered the best player in the world, is boycotting the national team because of the behavior of coach Jorge Wilda. The players claim that the methods used by Wilda and his staff negatively “affect our mental and personal well-being”.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation was not receptive, to say the least. “The players who announced their resignation will only return to the national team in the future if they admit their mistake and apologize.” This was reported by the Spanish federation.

During ESPN’s broadcast of Tuesday’s match, USWNT great Julie Foudy said she believes the content of the Yates report has so emotionally drained American players this month that it has affected their play on the field.

Why not? This month has been a moment of reckoning for women’s football, which is run by the fed-up athletes themselves. Against this background, these two exhibition losses for the Americans could not seem more insignificant.

One of North America’s leading soccer journalists, Doug McIntyre has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at numerous FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Written by Doug McIntyre.

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