The US national team has become the dominant force in women’s football.

But so far at the Olympics it looked like a shadow of itself.

That much was clear on Tuesday evening, when the US settled for a zero-all draw against the Matildas.

This is usually not a team that likes to agree.

It was four years before the Olympics since the USWNT went goalless, but in three games it has happened twice.

The reaction in the States has been strong, wondering if this is the same team that beat Thailand 13-0 at the last World Cup.

There is an understanding that a tie is enough to move forward, but also a skepticism that a passive approach is adequate preparation.

“Fans who woke up early in the United States fell asleep instantly,” wrote Steven Goff of the Washington Post.

“Such boring affairs are as unusual as US defeats. Through tedious sections of the second half, Australian defenders played the ball side to side with no interest in moving forward.

“The Americans didn’t take any chances either, watching and waiting for the time to run out. That is perhaps the uncomfortable thing about the Americans in this tournament: it is difficult to read them correctly. “

Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop, meanwhile, concluded that the 0-0 draw ended a “largely lackluster and below average group stage” but asked, “Can the USWNT flip the switch in the knockout rounds? “

The USWNT’s 6: 1 demolition order in New Zealand suggested that it could do just that.

After a shocking 3-0 loss to Sweden, the US reacted clinically, with defender Tierna Davidson saying the squad had been told to be “absolutely ruthless” by veteran Kelley O’Hara.

Such a “ruthless” approach was not necessary on Tuesday.

Instead, the focus was on withstanding the Matildas’ early pressure and further undermining the offensive threat from striker Sam Kerr.

It worked.

“Pragmatism isn’t often associated with US women, but it was an effective, logical strategy against Australia,” wrote Guardian’s Jeff Kassouf.

“Andonovski knew that a draw would be enough to advance.”

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post argued similarly.

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“So dominant, so revered, and steeped in championships and world-class stars, the United States usually acts with deserved sporting arrogance,” wrote Kilgore.

“It only took a draw to advance. Coach Vlatko Andonovski, who made his debut at a major tournament with the US women, created a game plan for just that. “

However, he added that the USWNT was “at risk of early exit” and that recent results cast doubt on the team’s core identity.

“Most worrying for the US will not be the results, but the inconsistency in performance and divergence from the core identity of a team that has won consecutive World Cups,” he added.

“A relentlessly aggressive American mentality is often cited as a reason never to count US women, even if the tactical or technical elements may fail. It’s the team’s DNA. “

Matildas head coach Tony Gusatvsson was also able to clearly see a change in the USA on Tuesday.

“From the first minute we told the team that the US had changed their defensive form against us and moved to a 4-4-2 and also decided to be more of a fixed structure and press less than me I’m used to seeing them. “Said Gustavsson.

“They were a bit more covering and protective in their defense and were waiting for those transitional moments to try to kill us on the transitions, probably because they saw us conceding a couple of goals in defense at the start of the tournament.” . “

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Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel wrote to USWNT that he “fell asleep in the Olympic knockout stages” before warning “his current form will not make it.”

“With only one draw for both teams to get to the knockout stages of the Olympics, they played a cautious, sleepy and mostly useless game,” he added.

“After this there is certainly not much left to say. Other than that, large parts of the game were inherently sloppy, non-competitive, or downright boring.

“Getting out of the group stage and retaining the energy for the upcoming sprint for the gold medal was obviously a priority for both clubs.

“The Americans are trying to be the first country to win a world title with Olympic gold. If they want to do it, they have to play better than they showed. Or, in the case of this game, just play pretty easy. “