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SheBelieves Cup
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USWNT wins third SheBelieves Cup

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Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press scored early goals to help the USWNT to a 3-1 win over Japan, reclaiming the SheBelieves Cup in the process.

Lindsey Horan added a goal in the 83rd minute to salt away the win after a short dicey period.

Vlatko Andonovski improves to 10-0 as USWNT coach and leads the Yanks to their third SheBelieves Cup crown (2016, 2018).

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Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi scored in the 57th minute, ending a shutout streak that ran 788 minutes since conceding twice to Sweden in Andonovski’s debut as head coach on Nov. 7.

The U.S. players took the field for warm-ups with their shirts inside-out, hiding the federation logo due to an ongoing and fierce dispute with president Carlos Cordeiro’s administration.

Rapinoe spun home a free kick in the seventh minute after a dangerous Japanese foul on Lindsey Horan left the star favoring her shoulder.

The goalkeeping was suspect, but we can thank it for giving us an even better highlight.

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It wasn’t 1-0 for long, thanks to a ruinous giveaway from Japan.

One pass, one chip, 2-0.

Press is on fire, scoring a wondergoal in the tournament opener before assisting the match-winning goal in the second contest.

Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made a few saves as Japan found footing in the second half, including a fine double stop in the 51st minute.

Japan seized momentum after Iwabuchi’s goal, consistently driving down the right flank to try and find receivers in front of goal.

Franch made a big save late, and Narumi Miura plunked the post with a bid as the match entered its final 15 minutes.

But Horan turned a header inside the near post off a late corner kick to end the Japanese threat.

USWNT hammer Panama in Olympic qualifying

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HOUSTON — Lindsey Horan scored three goals and the U.S. national team downed Panama 8-0 on Friday night in the the group stage of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey got tangled up with one of her own players and Horan took advantage, scoring in the third minute to give the World Cup-winning Americans the early lead.

Moments later, Bailey knocked heads with Jessica McDonald and spent several moments on the ground. But ultimately Panama’s captain stayed in the game.

Some two minutes after Lynn Williams’ goal in the 16th minute, Horan scored her second of the game. Rose Lavelle got her first goal since the World Cup final to make it 4-0 in the 21st.

Bailey was stretchered off in the 32nd minute. It was unclear if it was because of the earlier collision.

Christen Press scored her third goal in as many games in the 70th minute before McDonald’s goal in the 72nd to make it 6-0. Tobin Heath, who came in as a substitute, added a no-look goal and Horan capped the scoring by completing her hat trick in the 81st.

The crowd at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium was announced at 14,121.

The top-ranked U.S. team also defeated Haiti 4-0 in the group stage opener on Tuesday night. The Americans face Costa Rica in their group final on Monday.

Costa Rica down Haiti 2-0 earlier Friday at for its second win in the group.

Eight teams are playing in the tournament, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7.

The top two finishers in the tournament will earn the region’s berths in the Tokyo Games this summer.

The U.S. has qualified for every Olympics since women’s soccer was introduced in 1996. The team has five consecutive titles in the qualifying tournament.

Six teams have already made the field for Tokyo: Japan, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand.

USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with win over Haiti

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The USWNT was rusty, that much was clear. Vlatko Andonovski still made sure they took care of business.

Four different goalscorers delivered a 4-0 victory over Haiti to begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification, putting the United States in front of Group A early. Lynn Williams picked up a goal and assist, proving useful on an otherwise sputtery evening for Vlatko Andonovski’s attack.

Just 78 seconds into the game, Williams charged down the right flank and crossed to Christen Press at the far post for the opening goal. Williams’ assist came without the use of her left shoe which she lost while holding off a defender for the bobbling ball.

Despite the early lead, the United States seemed somewhat sluggish as Haiti built themselves into the match. There were few chances on net after the opening goal through the half-hour mark.

Haiti nearly caught the U.S. napping on a corner as the ball found the back of the net on 20 minutes, but the goal was somehow ruled out. It appeared to be for offside, but since it’s impossible to be offside from a corner, there must have been another reason for the official ruling. Nonetheless, it was a clear sign for the USWNT that they needed to pick up the level of play.

The U.S. continued to struggle after halftime, creating very little in front of net. There was a half-chance for Lloyd near the penalty spot but a quality tackle by Kethna Louis put that to bed. Then finally they put the game to bed on a corner, not coincidentally coming just five minutes after Megan Rapinoe entered the fray. Rapinoe delivered a corner to the doorstep where Williams headed in well under pressure, moving her upper body away from goal against the motion of her lower body to reach the delivery.

Another Andonovski substitute paid dividends however as Lindsey Horan scored, again coming off a corner. They played it short and Horan headed from a significant distance out, the ball squirting past the goalkeeper Kerly Theus and Louis who tried to clear off the line. It was clear that Haiti had begun to tire and the USWNT was taking advantage. Up front, Carli Lloyd had a poor game, unable to get involved in attacking play, but she found the scoresheet in stoppage time, bagging a header off a Rapinoe cross in the 93rd minute to finish out the scoring.

Emily Sonnett replaced Kelley O’Hara with 10 minutes to go for Andonovski’s final change, and the USWNT saw the rest of the match out. They have two matches remaining before the knockout stage, set to take on Panama on Friday before the group stage finale against Costa Rica on February 3. The top two teams in the group reach the knockout phase with the semifinals to begin on February 7.

Will Ellis change USWNT XI at all vs. England?

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What is Jill Ellis going to do against England now that her plan to beat France ended with a win?

It’s an odd way to phrase it, isn’t it? But it feels weird to say the plan worked when the hosts outshot the No. 1 ranked USWNT by 20-10 and had a 61-39 percent advantage in possession. They also connected on just 64 percent of their passes.

You may say that France was chasing the match and that numbers can never tell the story (Plus the Yanks were denied a 3-0 advantage when a questionable offside call denied Tobin Heath a marker).

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Lindsey Horan has been described by some as the best midfielder in the game — which is odd given teammate Julie Ertz is a monster — and Ellis did not start her against France. Instead, it was somewhat-ineffective creative mind Rose Lavelle and industrious Sam Mewis.

Despite calls to bench Megan Rapinoe in favor of Carli Lloyd or Christen Press, Ellis started the veteran and got two goals out of her. Not bad, and it means we’ll likely see her again along with Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath.

Rapinoe has five goals and three assists in four tournament matches, and the 34-year-old looks destined to start her fourth-straight match. With so many options on the bench and Ellis very slow to substitute, could England be the time to use her as a super sub? It’s an option.

Still we expect very few things to change against England, aside from Horan to enter for Lavelle to help steady the passing and nerve center of the midfield. Dunn and O’Hara will be needed to match the pace and engine of Nikita Parris.


O’Hara — Sauerbrunn — Dahlkemper — Dunn

Horan — Ertz — Mewis

Heath — Morgan — Rapinoe

What’s the USWNT’s best XI for the World Cup?

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Jill Ellis still has some time to tinker with her World Cup starting lineup, though she’s long had the luxury to plan for this summer.

When you’re the United States women’s national team manager, it’s all about the Olympics and the World Cup. Most friendlies can be won while experimenting, CONCACAF matches are straight-forward unless the opponent is Mexico, and the SheBelieves Cup is still growing in renown.

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So, yes, any uncertainty about the Yanks’ Best XI for a World Cup knockout round game is a head-scratcher, even with the wealth of talent at Ellis’ disposal as she attempts to make it back-to-back World Cup titles.

Seemingly the biggest questions are in the midfield, beginning with how often to deploy Carli Lloyd, and whether she’s a super sub or still an absolute force from the opening kickoff. Lloyd, 36, is a World Cup cycle removed from being crowned the best player in the world, but Rose Lavelle has been terrific when healthy.

The other questions is who to include in the other midfield spot near Julie Ertz, and both Lindsay Horan and Sam Mewis can lay righteous claims to starting bids. Still, Horan will get the chance to drive the bus more often than not in a roaming role.

With Thailand and Chile before Sweden, though, don’t be surprised if we get one last audition for Mewis or even Lloyd. Either way, opportunities abound against a Thailand team which regularly gives up multiple goals to top teams.

Here’s our bet:


O’Hara — Sauerbrunn — Dahlkemper — Dunn

Horan — Ertz


Heath — Morgan — Rapinoe