USWNT’s triumph in the Algarve Cup final inspires pre-World Cup confidence

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Three cheers for the United States women’s national team.

Few have been as critical as I have been when it comes to the USWNT’s play over the past few years. From the 2011 World Cup finale disappointment to the horrible 7th place finish at the last Algarve Cup and the player revolt that cost Tom Sermanni his job, I’ve wondered at the leadership and direction of the team.

[ MATCH RECAP: USWNT 2-0 France ]

In some ways, it’s hard to imagine any team soaring back to the USWNT’s turn of the century heights given how many nations are advancing in women’s soccer, but what the States did in this month’s Algarve Cup showed the power that lies in the depth of the United States program.

After coming back to beat Norway and thumping Switzerland in a soft group, Jill Ellis’ squad knew a draw would get them to the tournament final. Following a 0-0 result with Iceland, a rematch with France was at-hand.

This was a France side that rolled through its group, including a beat down of Japan. And it was a France side that controlled the States in a 2-0 U.S. loss at Lorient last month.

With the World Cup coming up this summer in Canada, Christen Press and the States made a statement by reversing that score line. Press made her moments count in a match against a France team that took more shots and put more on goal, as the States gutted out a prime result.

Embattled goalkeeper Hope Solo stopped a late PK, and 22-year-old defender Julie Johnston netted her first U.S. goal. Morgan Brian and Lauren Holiday were solid in the middle, and Amy Rodriguez put in good work up top.

Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe as closing subs? Yes, please. This U.S. team looked like one that can contend in Canada, putting aside — at least for now — their recent struggles.