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The USWNT are broken, and they can't skate by on talent forever

Megan Rapinoe is amazing, but she can't bail her team out of every game.

The United States women start a couple of central midfielders who don't do much defensively, they don't play a real right winger, their central defenders aren't suited to their super-high line and Abby Wambach is 35 years old. These are all issues that have been present for over a year and none of them have been addressed.

On Monday, against Australia, none of these things mattered, because the U.S. women have so much going for them. They're still one of the fittest teams in the world. They still have more raw talent in their starting XI than anyone else, even if it's not used properly. Hope Solo, despite all her off-the-field issues, is the best goalkeeper on earth by a wide margin. And there aren't many players more technically skilled and more clutch than Megan Rapinoe, who scored twice in the Americans' 3-1 win.

That score flatters to deceive, as U.S. wins regularly do, because the Americans were genuinely bad for vast swaths of time in this match. They were outplayed in midfield, roasted down the flanks and had no idea how to attack. They created two chances in the second half and took both of them, because that's what they do over and over again against solid second-tier teams like Australia. They won't be playing second-tier teams forever.

If Monday's early game is any indication, the USWNT's next two opponents, Nigeria and Sweden, are on a similar level. They're very talented and athletic, but ultimately not on the top level of teams technically and tactically. More likely than not, the U.S. will look like garbage for large periods of those games, get a draw or win anyway, and advance from Group D without much of a problem.

But this team is not good enough to win the World Cup right now, and the problems are patently obvious. They're the same problems everyone who watches their games has been screaming about since Ellis took over, and she hasn't done anything about them yet. More likely than not, she'll persist with this team or some slightly altered variation of it; her substitutes suggested that she doesn't recognize the problems.

Nigeria, Sweden, whatever third place team they play in the Round of 16 and the winner of a likely Norway-Switzerland knockout stage game are all unlikely to expose the United States' flaws to the point where they exit the World Cup. But Germany or France absolutely will expose them in the semifinal, so Ellis better figure something out over the next four games.

We have over a year's worth of evidence to suggest that she either doesn't see the problem or doesn't know how to fix it. Here's to hoping something has changed.


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