The problems that may stop the US retaining the Women’s World Cup

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The Americans have arguably the best squad in France this summer. But they are far from a perfect unit as they aim to become world champions again

The US women’s national team are considered a favorite to win next month’s World Cup, and there’s good reason for it. The team are No1 in the world rankings and have outscored their opponents 85-16 over the past 18 months. The Americans again showed their dominance in a 3-0 win over Mexico on Sunday.

But the refrain from coach Jill Ellis afterward was that the USWNT still have plenty to work on if they want to win in France, and US Soccer shouldn’t make room in the trophy case just yet. As strong as the US are, they aren’t invincible. Here are the four issues the Americans need to address if they want to win a World Cup, and the one big thing that may make up for all their problems.

Concern No1: They are too vulnerable to the counterattack

If there’s one reason to be excited about the USWNT’s chances in France, it may be their ultra-attacking approach. That, however, is also something to worry about. The US attack is the team’s best asset, and it makes sense that Ellis wants to maximize it. But that also means that the team are never just focused on their defense.

The team’s full-backs, Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn, and defensive midfielder Julie Ertz are given freedom to push up the field and support attacks. When that happens, the US are only a quick counterattack away from being exposed by a direct ball that can get behind center-backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper, who lack the speed to win a footrace against the world’s top strikers.

Mexico on Sunday were never going to threaten the Americans – El Tri didn’t even qualify for the World Cup – but there were moments when, if Mexico had controlled the ball a bit better, they could have been in on goal. We’ve seen it happen to the USWNT before. In the quarter-final of the Rio Olympics in 2016, it took Sweden just three passes to bypass every outfield player on the USWNT and score.

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