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.
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.
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.
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.
Hope Solo, who returned from suspension following an incident involving her husband Jerramy Stevens in January which saw the latter arrested for DUI while driving a U.S. Soccer team van, recorded her second-straight shutout but the disjointed displays continued with the women’s World Cup in Canada fast approaching.
While the U.S. struggle for consistency, the only team they’ve lost to so far in 2015, France, awaits in the final after the French steamrolled through Group C with three wins from three. When the U.S. lost 2-0 to France in Lorient back in February they were missing Solo through suspension, with Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux injured. So this time around they will be hoping to win the last major warmup tournament (nine o fht e 12 teamw ill play in the World Cup this summer) by silencing doubters and beat a surging French team.
The USWNT is ranked No. 2, behind Germany, in the world but heading into the World Cup a 10th Algarve Cup title would certainly be a big statement by Ellis’ team.
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.
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.
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.
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.