The U.S. women’s national team is the heavy favorite to win Sunday’s World Cup final against the Netherlands (10 a.m. Ch. 9). The betting odds for the game imply that, should you decide to risk ten bucks on the Netherlands to win, you’ll lose ten bucks. Nevertheless, expecting a blowout might be premature because the U.S. has completely abandoned its all-out approach from the group stage.

The Americans had the lead in all three of their knockout-round matches before the clock showed 10:00, and yet after taking those leads, the team immediately seemed to put its collective foot squarely on the brake. The U.S. is excellent when in attack mode but ordinary when playing cautious, conservative soccer. It led to three consecutive gut-wrenching 2-1 wins, instead of the confident, dominant victories we saw earlier in the tournament.

Complaining about a team that’s reached a World Cup final is churlish, but on Sunday, the U.S. needs to trust the oddsmakers. The Netherlands is a good team, but is definitely weaker than the U.S. If the Americans play conservatively, it will only allow the underdogs to stay in the game, and the longer they keep it close, the longer one mistake can turn the match. The U.S. would have a better chance if it tried to make the game a shootout, instead of again trying to ease its way to a 1-0 win.

Short takes

• U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is pitching his team as the underdog to Mexico in Sunday’s Gold Cup final (8 p.m., FS1). Though the U.S. is missing multiple players to injury, notably John Brooks and Tyler Adams, Mexico is missing even bigger names — Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, and Héctor Herrera. No matter what Berhalter says, the U.S. should be equal favorites to win, and failing to do so would be a setback for his attempted rebuild.

• It took half the season and another World Cup, but the NWSL finally has a television contract again. Fourteen league games will be shown on ESPN networks, including the playoff semifinals and finals. The league has been struggling to promote itself this year, curiously, even though the American sports world has been transfixed by the women’s national team at the World Cup. Being on ESPN will help change that.

WATCH GUIDE

Copa América: Brazil vs. Peru, 3 p.m., Sunday, ESPN+ (online only). USA fans will focus more on the aforementioned finals on Sunday, but the Copa América final can be the midday snack between the two. Brazil, hosting the tournament, is the heavy favorite, having dominated Peru 5-0 during the group stages. Peru, though, is finding form just in time, and though they’re far shorter on world-famous players than Brazil, they’ll be playing without pressure.

 

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: jmarthaler@gmail.com