The U.S. Women’s National Team drew 2-2 with the Lionesses of England on Saturday Night in Nashville, TN in the She Believes Cup. With tonight’s tie, the U.S. sits in third place (2 points) in the SheBelieves Cup standings behind first-place Japan (4 points) and second place England (4 points).
Tonight was important for a few reasons. With less than 100 days to go before the Women’s World Cup, the USWNT needs to be tested so whatever issues they have can be resolved. In their first match, they appeared to have Japan’s number but the Japanese were resilient, patient, and pushed the U.S. to their limits; tonight was an opportunity to show improvement. Finally, the U.S. side wore special kits tonight bearing the names of prominent women who inspire them. For example, Alex Morgan wears no. 13 but the last name read “Wambach” for Abby Wambach. Others include Crystal Dunn (Serena Williams), Mallory Pugh (Beyoncé), Christen Press (Sojourner Truth), and Carli Lloyd (Malala Yousafzai).
In the 31′, Megan Rapinoe opened the goal tally for the USWNT after crushing a half-volley into the near-side netting. A strike that was so perfect that Karen Bardsley didn’t even attempt to dive.
Just before the end of the first half, Mallory Pugh sent an uncharacteristically long back pass to Adrianna Franch, who for some reason picked up the ball inside the box. This lapse in judgment setup an indirect free-kick comfortably inside the 18. England’s Steph Houghton stepped up for the Lionesses and curled a rocket around the wall and around a diving Franch to level the match 1-1.
In the 51′, the ladies from across the pond were rolling with all the momentum and the confidence. On a counterattack, Fran Kirby flicked a beautiful ball to a sprinting Nikita Parris. Another mental lapse in the back (this time by Abby Dahlkemper) held Parris onside right before she beat her defender and Franch to push England ahead 2-1.
A scramble in front of England’s goal would ultimately end up in favor of the U.S. as Tobin Heath leveled the match in the 67′. It all started with a Rapinoe corner kick. Chaos ensued in front of Bardsley but the U.S. would eventually push the ball past the line.
The final test for the USWNT in the SheBelieves Cup will be Tuesday Night as they take on Brazil while England faces Japan.
SHOTS 20-6 USA
SOG 5-3 USA
POSSESSION 54%-46% USA
PASSES 512-440 USA
YELLOW CARDS 0
RED CARDS 0
OFFSIDES 2-1 USA
CORNERS 5-1 USA
To be frank, this is not the team that won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Four years later and we don’t have a back line, Jill Ellis is still experimenting with roster moves, we don’t have a solid backup for Alex Morgan, and we’re yet to find our identity in front of goal.
I understand life happens. The ladies have injuries, some start families, some have other ventures they want to explore, but these issues should’ve been remedied by now.
I’ll start with goalkeeping. We still haven’t filled the gaping hole left by the departure of Hope Solo and that needs to change. I’ve been a longtime supporter of Adrianna Franch and think it preposterous that she’s just now getting her first cap. All her training and her epic performances with the Thorns in the NWSL will be ignored because her first start ended with a 2-2 draw. Alyssa Naeher is injured and Ashlyn Harris hasn’t played. Honestly, I’d rather roll the dice with Franch. Shake off these first-match jitters and get her comfortable and ready for Brazil Tuesday.
Outside of Julie Ertz, where is our back line? If Jill Ellis is going to move forward without Ali Krieger and Megan Klingenberg then she should have a concrete plan with formidable replacements. I omitted Dunn just because she’s used in literally every position but personally, I’d rather have her at left-back. Dahlkemper is still suspect and after what I saw tonight, I am not convinced about Tierna Davidson. Nikita Parris had a hell of a battle with Crystal Dunn the first half and it was beautiful. But Ellis switched Dunn to the right side so Parris went up against Davidson. Davidson is fresh out of Stanford, playing for the Portland Thorns. Nikita Parris? A starter for Manchester City Women and just won the Continental Tire Women’s League cup. Parris was too much for Dahlkemper and Davidson never had a chance.
Who is our striker? Alex Morgan. Everyone else is listed as a forward. If Morgan goes down then what? These other countries aren’t afraid of us anymore and it shows. Japan, The Netherlands, England, China, Canada, France, they’ve all gained strength since 2015 and have us in their sights. We love sending longballs and playing from the back but if Morgan goes down, where do we go from there? Christen Press has played excellent on the wing but is rarely used as a striker. Mallory Pugh has the speed but does not have the strength. Playing from the back is fine but how are they going to get past back line staples who have size and strength like Wendie Renard (France) or Anouk Dekker (The Netherlands)?
A strong finish against Brazil would be good for the fanbase and the squad. Brazil, shockingly, has lost their first two matches and will be gunning for that first win. The final day of SheBelieves Cup action should be a good one and will set the tone for the #RoadToFrance.
Photo: U.S. Soccer