Tobin Heath

Megan Rapinoe NWSL
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USWNT’s Rapinoe, Heath among players opting out of NWSL tournament

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U.S. national team players Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press have opted out of the National Women’s Soccer League tournament kicking off this weekend in Utah.

Heath and Press, who played with Rapinoe on the champion World Cup team last summer in France, cited concerns about the coronavirus for their decisions not to play.

“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath, who plays for the Portland Thorns, said in a statement released by the team.

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The Challenge Cup opens Saturday with a game between the Thorns and the defending champion North Carolina Courage. The league’s teams announced their rosters on Tuesday.

Among the national team players taking part in the tournament are Chicago’s Julie Ertz, U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year, and teammate Alyssa Naeher, North Carolina’s Crystal Dunn and Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn.

The league was rocked by the announcement Monday that the Orlando Pride were dropping out of the tournament after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The withdrawal leaves eight teams participating in the monthlong tournament.

A new schedule was released Tuesday following the Pride’s withdrawal. In addition to Portland’s game against the Courage on Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars will play the Washington Spirit in the late match.

Rapinoe’s team, OL Reign, did not provide a reason for her decision to sit out.

“Megan let us know that she has decided not play in the tournament. Like all NWSL players, she was given the option to participate. Farid (Benstiti, coach of the Reign) and I would love to have her with the club for the tournament, but we understand and respect her decision,” Reign CEO Bill Predmore said in a statement.

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Press released a statement through her team, the Utah Royals, that said: “It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports, and our world. Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders.”

Sky Blue previously announced that Carli Lloyd would not take part in the tournament because of a minor left knee injury. Teammate Mallory Pugh won’t play because of a hip injury.

The NWSL is the first team sport in the United States to return after sports were shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. Players were given the option of opting out without losing salaries or insurance.

Teams will be sequestered during the tournament and games will be played at stadiums in Herriman and Sandy, which are suburbs of Salt Lake City. The tournament will run through July 26.

The opener and the final will be broadcast on CBS.

USWNT tops World Cup group with 2-0 win over Sweden

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Jill Ellis said the United States wouldn’t duck France in the knockout stages, and they echoed that sentiment on the field, downing Sweden 2-0 and emphatically winning Group F. The win means they will earn a Round of 16 matchup with Spain, and would likely meet the hosts in the quarterfinals if both teams hold strong in their first knockout game.

The meeting between the two teams was the sixth in Women’s World Cup play, including a fifth straight, both records. While Sweden had its moments, the game was controlled by the favorites and was never really in doubt. The second goal came in controversial fashion, but it had been coming as the U.S. came out firing and scored early in both halves.

It took no time for the United States to get on the board just three minutes in as Megan Rapinoe mishit a corner and sent in a worm burner that somehow squirted through the Swedish defense and fell to Lindsay Horan on the doorstep who was free on a late charge to tap in the opening goal.

After the opener, the U.S. continued to dominate attacking possession, and Crystal Dunn had a pair of half-chances, putting both over the bar. Alex Morgan then got on the end of a Sam Mewis ball and looked for an audacious chip but just missed the far post.

Sweden built into the game by the 20th minute and had a golden opportunity as Kosovare Asllani found space down the right half of the box but her shot was weak and right at Alyssa Naeher. Towards the end of the first half Naeher was tested again, diving to punch away a Sweden cross from the right. Otherwise, the first half was all the United States, looking to break Sweden down to put the game away.

After the break, Jill Ellis made a change to bring on Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan, the latter of whom appeared slightly dinged up and was brought off as a precaution. The appearance for Lloyd is her 277th cap for the United States, passing Mia Hamm for third all-time with the country.

The U.S. came out of the break as strong as they started the game, and Tobin Heath put the United States 2-0 up from a very tight angle. The goal was reviewed by VAR after replay appeared to show Carli Lloyd offside on the play as she looked to receive the cross which eventually rebounded to Heath, but the referee allowed the goal to stand despite Lloyd’s influence on the play. Also controversially, the goal was later changed by FIFA to an own-goal by Sweden defender Jonna Anderson who was defending Heath on the play.

The goal woke up Sweden who tested Nahaer on two separate occasions before the hour mark, but the U.S. goalkeeper held firm. A free-kick from the left edge of the U.S. box on 70 minutes came close to the near post but no Sweden attacker could get a head to the delivery.

Lloyd had a chance to extend both the lead and her goal streak with a chance in the 90th minute but on a breakaway ball from Mewis she fired her wide-open chance straight at Hedvig Lindahl who stayed strong to make the save. With the win, the United States wins the group with a perfect 3-0 record and a stunning +18 goal differential. They move on to the knockout stage to play Spain in the Round of 16, with a potential meeting with France looming in the quarterfinals.

USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video)

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Tobin Heath, Mallory Pugh, and Christen Press all scored and then United States women’s national team was rarely threatened in a 3-0 win that stands as the final tune-up for the World Cup in France.

The U.S. will meet Thailand, Nigeria, and Chile in Group F play beginning on June 11.

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The match was barely 10 minutes old when Heath took advantage of terrible miscommunication between Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago and Rebeca Bernal.

There was still work to do when Heath got the ball, finding the angle to make it 1-0.

Carli Lloyd nearly slid a ball home after dribbling Santiago in the 48th minute, but was defied by a goal line clearance.

The second goal came when Lloyd dribbled toward the near post from a tight angle, sliding a pass to Pugh for a 2-0 lead.

Press completed the scoring with a classy finish in the final minutes.

England wins SheBelieves Cup; USWNT wins finale (video)

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England has joined France and the USWNT (twice) as winners of the SheBelieves Cup after finishing with two wins and a draw with the Americans over three matches in the States.

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The U.S. finishes an unbeaten second, with Japan in third, and Brazil last.

Japan 0-3 England

Beth Mead scored for the second time in the tournament to cap off a 3-goal first half-hour for the Lionesses, as manager Phil Neville and England clinched its first SheBelieves Cup by beating Japan.

Karen Carney and Lucy Staniforth also scored in a match that flattered to deceive given relatively even numbers in passes, possession, and shots.

USWNT 1-0 Brazil

Tobin Heath’s 20th minute goal gave Jill Ellis’ women the lead, but would they keep it for the duration of a match this time around?

The USWNT blew three leads across its draws with Japan and England, but held on to the advantage against Brazil.

Heath, as we’ve said before, is a wizard.

Brazil finishes 0-3 in the tournament.

Rapinoe, Heath lead USWNT back to draw England (video)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tobin Heath scored off her own rebound in the 67th minute, and the United States tied England 2-2 on Saturday in the SheBelieves Cup for the Americans’ second draw in two games in the tournament.

Megan Rapinoe, who also scored the 43rd goal of her career in the 33rd minute, started the tying goal with a corner kick. Alex Morgan passed the ball to Heath whose first kick was stopped by defender Rachel Daly, and Heath scored off the rebound for her 26th career goal.

The Americans nearly pulled out a victory. Julie Ertz’s header went off the bar at the end of the 77th minute, and they had a flurry of passes deep in the 90th minute without a shot on net.

Steph Houghton tied it up on a free kick in the 36th minute, and Nikita Parris gave England a 2-1 lead.

The U.S. now is 10-4-2 all-time against England, though the teams avoided the 1-0 score of their last four meetings. The Americans had won three of those, and Saturday they wore the names of women who have inspired them on the back of their shirts.

Japan beat Brazil 3-1 in the opening match of Saturday’s doubleheader in the second part of this round-robin tournament featuring four of the world’s top 10 teams. This tuneup for the Women’s World Cup, which starts June 7 in France, concludes Tuesday night in Tampa, Florida, where the United States will play Brazil, while England plays Japan.

The Americans are 3-0-1 at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, this time before a crowd of 22,125 on a cloudy, chilly day.

Kelley O’Hara passed the ball into the box where Daly tried to clear with a header. Rapinoe corralled the ball, then boomed a volley over the head of keeper Karen Bardsley for a 1-0 lead.

Houghton tied it up on a free kick , curling the ball past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Adrianna Franch in her first cap for the Americans.

Alex Morgan came up just shy of her 100th goal late in the first half.

Fran Kirby found Parris with a pass, then she dribbled once before beating Franch in the 52nd minute to give England the lead, putting the pressure on the Americans who won their first three visits to this stadium.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis started substituting soon after, sending in Christen Press for Mallory Pugh, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who sat out the Americans’ 2-2 tie against Japan in the opener of this tournament with an injury, replaced Rose Lavelle in the 61st minute. Ellis said Friday that Sauerbrunn was “highly unlikely” to play in Nashville.