It’s easy for analysts, talking heads, folks on Twitter to sit back and criticize the play of the United States women’s national team so far during this Women’s World Cup, but when a former players does it — a player who has won two World Cups — it’s time to listen.
Michelle Akers, who played 15 years as a midfielder/forward for the U.S. and was on the World Cup-winning teams of 1991 and 1999, had some pointed words for coach Jill Ellis following the Americans’ 2-0 win against Colombia on Monday.
"If she [Ellis] is pleased with the way we played tonight then what the hell is she doing coaching our U.S. team," Akers said during a two-minute segment on Sirius XM.
Here’s the entire segment:
Akers acknowledged that she’s taken the less-than-exemplary play of the U.S. personally because she’s a former player who feels a connection with the current players. But she, like many watching at home, also feels bewildered by the lineup choices and substitutions Ellis is putting on the field.
“When we struggle or when, in our opinion, the coach isn’t handling the personnel right, the lineup sucks, the subs are sketchy, we’re not all on the same page, that’s me out there,” Akers said. “We take it personal because that’s our baby out there.”
There’s no doubt the United States has not played like the No. 2-ranked team in the world during the World Cup. It’s gotten by on talent and stellar defense and beautiful goalkeeping. But overall, the U.S. has looked lost, unorganized and without leadership.
Akers backtracked a bit in a Facebook post on Monday evening:
“USA wins vs Columbia 2-0. Definitely not pretty. Definitely wanted to throw up half the game. But we won. And we are through to the next round...which in a WC is the whole goal. To advance. And at this stage in the game, I don't care how ugly it is as long as we keep finding a way to win. Congrats Team USA. See you Friday vs China #win”
But Akers shouldn’t be ashamed of what she said. As a former national team player that played in 153 games and three World Cups, she articulated what the players on the field can’t, and what everyone who has watched the U.S. team since Akers’ playing days sees. This is not the dominant U.S. women’s national team that American soccer fans have come to adore and frankly taken for granted. The potential and talent is there, but the leadership — player, coach or otherwise — is lacking.
Michelle Akers speaks the truth. Hopefully, someone in U.S. Soccer is listening.