Algarve Cup

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.

US Women exact revenge on France, win Algarve Cup

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Julie Johnston and Christen Press scored first-half goals, and the USWNT got revenge for their February loss by defeating France 2-0 in the final of the Algarve Cup.

US Manager Jill Ellis had come under some fire this tournament for her erratic lineup selections and tactics that often didn’t suit the strengths of her selected players, but today things within the 4-4-2 seemed to click. The performance was wire-to-wire, and all parts of the formation contributed to the result. The first half was entertaining, but things seemed to slow in the second half as both teams felt the fatigue from a hard-fought tournament

22-year-old defender Johnston scored her first career international goal just seven minutes in on a header off a corner that not only rippled the back of the net but ripped her headband as well (video above). Press then doubled the US lead when she absolutely carved up the middle of the French pitch to put away the game just before halftime.

Beast mode.

France nearly got back in the game late when Megan Klingenberg conceded a penalty in the 81st minute, but goalkeeper Hope Solo saved the penalty by Amandine Henry.

The match evened things out between these two teams for 2015 so far, with France winning back in early February by the same scoreline to shock and ground the US in reality. While the Algarve Cup hasn’t proceeded without more criticism for Ellis, and the team has looked beatable at times, the result is what the team set out for and the performance in the final is encouraging.

With the World Cup still to come this summer, the team’s final tuneup gave us a mixed bag of results and analysis, but the final result is encouraging considering the blistering form France entered the game with, having defeated Brazil, Germany, and Japan in addition to the US. Well done, ladies, on to Canada.

USWNT 3-0 Switzerland: Morgan, Rodriguez, Wambach rescue USA at Algarve Cup

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It took a while — 54 minutes, to be exact — but the U.S. women’s national team found a way to overcome a sluggish performance and move to six out of six points, top of Group B, at the 2015 Algarve Cup with a 3-0 victory over Switzerland on Friday.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s USWNT coverage | ’15 WWC ]

Following a first half in which the USWNT created little — and allowed very little as well, to be fair — the Americans sprang to life in the second half, hitting the Swiss with three goals in 27 minutes, the kind of scoring outburst once common for the USMNT, but rarely seen in recent months and years.

Alex Morgan scored the first, getting on the end of a perfectly placed ball over the top from Lauren Holiday. Morgan headed downward, beating the goalkeeper and the sense of relief was visible on the face of her USWNT teammates.

Amy Rodriguez doubled the lead in the 72nd minute with a sequence of quick, concise touches inside the Swiss penalty area. Rodriguez received the ball near the top of the six-yard box, with no clear shooting path. Rather than fire a shot into the wall of defenders and ‘keeper, she shielded the ball from the nearest defender, created space with a quick turn and lifted the ball over the ‘keeper and into the back of the net.

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Abby Wambach provided the insurance goal with a chip of the ‘keeper from the corner of the 18-yard box in the 81st minute. Wambach recovered a wayward Swiss back-pass not far outside the box, took one touch and chipped the ‘keeper who by this point was rushing out to close down Wambach. No such luck, as the ball sailed high and nestled inside the far post.

The USWNT returns to action on Monday, when they’ll face Iceland in the final game of Group B before moving on to either the first- or third-place game later next week.

Lloyd’s brace helps USWNT to winning start in comeback versus Norway at Algarve Cup (video)

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Make no mistake about it: the United States women’s national team was without a doubt the better team in its 2015 Algarve Cup opener against Norway.

The score line, however, disagreed for a while.

The USWNT went down 1-0 before Carli Lloyd scored a pair of second-half to lead the Yanks to a 2-1 win on Wednesday.

Hope Solo was between the sticks for the States, and probably should’ve done better on Ada Hegerberg’s 43rd minute goal. Solo was slow to get out of her crouch and only got a piece of the header.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]

The States responded well, first with a knuckling rip for Lloyd in the 55th minute, assisted by Press, and then converting a penalty in the 62nd when Norway’s Trin Ronning blocked Press’ long shot with her extended arm.

The USWNT is looking to rebound from the 2014 Algarve Cup, where it finished in 7th after drawing Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark.

Noon ET on Friday brings the next match of group play, with the States facing Switzerland. The Swiss beat Iceland 2-0 on a pair of Lara Dickenmann goals.

Hope Solo reinstated to USWNT, named to Algarve Cup roster (Full roster)

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Hope Solo’s 30-day suspension handed down by U.S. Soccer following a Jan. 19 incident is over and the 33-year-old goalkeeper has been officially reinstated to the U.S. women’s national team, U.S. Soccer announced on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

Also on Saturday, Solo, arguably the best female goalkeeper in the world, was one of 25 players named to head coach Jill Ellis’s roster for next month’s Algarve Cup in Portugal. The USWNT are nine-time Algarve Cup winners (the tournament was first played in 1994), but this year’s edition carries additional meaning, as the 2015 Women’s World Cup kicks off nearly three months to the day from the USWNT’s first Algarve Cup game (March 4).

The USWNT were placed in Group B, alongside Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. The best group winner and second-best group winner of the three groups will face off in the first-place game on March 11, while the third-best group winner will face the second-best second-placed team in the third-place game, and so on.

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Also joining Solo as re-entrants into the USWNT fold are Megan Rapinoe (right knee) and Christie Rampone (back), who missed friendlies against France and England earlier this month due to injuries. The Algarve Cup roster includes 22 of 24 players that were in camp for those friendlies.

Full USWNT roster

Goalkeepers (3): Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
Defenders (10): Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
Midfielders (7): Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
Forwards (5): Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)