Women's World Cup: USA's Jill Ellis explains reasons for late substitutions

Ellis waited until the 85th minute to replace Morgan with Carli Lloyd as the first sub in the contest against Spain.

USA head coach Jill Ellis.

U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis received criticism for waiting so long to make substitutions during a close game against Spain that gave the United States a scare. 

Star forward Alex Morgan, who was subbed out halfway through USA's group stage finale against Sweden with injury concerns, didn't look 100 percent as she took several big hits. Veteran Megan Rapinoe looked exhausted as she scored twice on penalty kicks. And, overall, the U.S. missed on big opportunities as it couldn't find the back of the net and needed a change in pace.


Ellis waited until the 85th minute to replace Morgan with Carli Lloyd as the first sub. Rapinoe came out in the seventh minute of stoppage time, while Lindsey Horan (who has a yellow card) replaced Rose Lavelle.

After the 2-1 win, Ellis explained why she didn't make substitutions earlier. Here is Ellis' full explanation:

"You can't just live cautiously, I think, when you're in a knockout game. I think you have to coach in the moment and make those decisions. 

"It felt that we started to gain momentum, and I think as a coach you have to read that moment, because a player can look absolutely fatigued and then suddenly things change and they get their legs again. I think as a coach you have to kind of know your players and be able to read those moments. 

"So I think that was part of the decision to persist with the players we had — because I think there was momentum, and I think some of them actually grew into the second half. Yeah, listen, it's three days less (rest than Spain had), it's hot, it was physically demanding out there in terms of just the atmosphere of what we were in. 

"But I think some of the players actually kind of got their second winds, so to speak. That's probably why we waited a little bit in terms of the substitutions. 

"Alex, we took her out; Carli gives us the same aerial presence, a fantastic aerial presence, work rate and (is) dangerous going forward. 

"I think Lindsey (Horan), we knew that the game at times opened up, and I think our midfield had quite a bit of ground to cover in terms of trying to win the first ball and pick up the second ball. So I think that was a legs substitution there. 

"And then the last one, you look at that for time, and you always think if they were to tie it up, you always have to think if that happens, what do you want to look like — it's all the planning that you go through before the game."


The Americans now shift their focus to facing host France in the quarterfinals Friday in Paris.

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