After a blitzkrieg level domination in the CONCACAF Championship to secure their World Cup bid and the number one seed, the U.S. Women’s National Team have come out flat in a series of friendlies, and now look to be unfocused following the She Believes Cup.
Following an undefeated 2018 campaign, the U.S. Women dropped their first match of the new year, a 1-3 rout by the French squad that wasn’t even as close as the score might indicate. Mallory Pugh netted the lone score for the U.S. late in extra time. This might be concerning in the buildup to the World Cup this summer, but the USWNT showed a different lineup than the team used in the CONCACAF tournament, as coach Jill Ellis did some tweaking and some veterans rested.
Since then, a 1-0 win over Spain was the lone bright spot, as the U.S. Women have looked flat in their home round-robin invitational. It was thought that the SBC would be a repeat coronation for the Americans, but they scuffled out of the gate, earning consecutive draws against Japan and England to begin the tournament.
In the first match, the host nation looked to be in good position, leading early with a strike from Megan Rapinoe, and again in the 76 th minute on a goal from Alex Morgan. The U.S. Women would carry the 2 1 lead into extra time before a shocking defensive lapse opened the door for Japan’s Yuka Momiki in the 91 st minute. As the whistle blew, it was clear that neither the team, nor Coach Jill Ellis were happy to ear the draw after leading for much of the match.
Against England, the tone was much the same in the beginning, as the U.S. took the lead in the 33 rd minute with a brilliant right-footed volley by Megan Rapinoe. From there, the tone darkened for the Americans, as England’s Steph Houghton bent a ball into the right corner of the goal off a set piece. Then, in the 52 nd minute an aggressive England squad again capitalized, this time on a defensive miscue, taking the lead 2-1. Tobin Heath would level the score at 2-2 in the 67 th minute, but it was too little to late for the Americans to earn more than the single point. Despite the draw, the American women did much to inspire their fans and young soccer players around the world, as they played the match wearing not their own names, but the names of inspirational women. From Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai to more soccer-specific heroes, like Abby Wambach and Briana Scurry, the Americans all proudly wore jerseys with the name of a hero who’s helped them become the women that they are today.
In the round-robin format, the USWNT did stand a chance to retain their title, but a 3-0 win by England over Japan ensured that the U.S. Women would be relegated to no better than second place going into the final match against Brazil. They’d need to do it without starting goalkeeper as well, as Alyssa Naeher was ruled out for the second straight match with a minor shoulder injury. A more focused effort from the American defense kept the scrappy Brazilian squad scoreless, and a Tobin Heath strike in the 20th minute would be enough to earn the Americans three points and second place in the tournament.
While it’s not time to panic for fans of America’s team, it does seem that despite a number one world ranking, these women will be working hard to get organized before the World Cup begins in just a few months.
Image Source: The Guardian