A crowd of 14,591 braved cold, windy, blustery conditions on the first night of the SheBelieves Cup at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, OH, and they witnessed a repeat of the United States-Germany result from 2017. The USWNT won, 1-0, on a first-half Megan Rapinoe goal on a night when the weather ruined what could have been a lot of promising build-up play.
As expected, Alex Morgan got the start up top for Jill Ellis. Here is the rest of the starting XI:
The U.S. fashioned the first chance of the game at the 11-minute mark when Rapinoe’s cross on a corner kick found Morgan’s head, but it had too much on it and the Pride striker could only just get a touch. Kelley O’Hara followed with a chip shot that landed on the roof of the net. Moments later, Mallory Pugh earned a corner and Rapinoe sent it into the box for Lloyd. Rather than shoot, the captain tried to improve her position but her touch was too heavy and went behind for a goal kick.
Germany had a golden opportunity to seize the lead in the 16th minute when Sara Däbritz found herself alone in the U.S. penalty area but she was off balance when she shot and it sliced well wide of the net.
The USWNT drew first blood a minute later. The Yanks sent a route one ball over the top that Morgan flicked in behind for a streaking Rapinoe. The Seattle star slotted home with only a slight touch from the keeper to make it 1-0.
By scoring that goal, the U.S. equaled the team’s entire production in the 2017 SheBelieves Cup (also scored against Germany). It was also a milestone goal for Pinoe.
Megan Rapinoe goal! It's her 35th #USWNT goal, tying Sydney Leroux and April Heinrichs for 15th-most in team history.— Paul Carr (@PaulCarrTM) March 2, 2018
Germany nearly equalized in the 20th minute. A giveaway on a bad exchange between O’Hara and Tierna Davidson led to a German attack. O’Hara tried to recover from behind and her touch sent the ball off the left post, just inches from being an own-goal. The ball never went out of play but the referee awarded a German corner kick to everyone’s surprise. The U.S. dealt with the set piece to clear the danger.
Rapinoe tried to chip goalkeeper Almuth Schult in the 26th minute but didn’t hit it well and the German netminder was able to scramble back and catch it. A minute later, Pugh had a chance to send in Rapinoe but overcooked the pass, forcing the ball out wide. Rapinoe crossed for Morgan but her near-post flick went wide. Rapinoe again worried the keeper in the 35th minute on a free kick near the corner flag. She fizzed a ball with pace across the face of goal and forced an awkward touch from Schult, who sent it behind for a corner, but the ensuing set piece went behind the end line in flight.
That was the last decent chance for either side in the first half, though Rapinoe did send a hard shot right at Schult later in the first half. The Yanks took the 1-0 lead into the half. The United States led in shots, 5-4 (2-1 on goal) but the Germans held 54% of the possession.
The U.S. went against the wind in the second half and it ruined a lot of decent scoring opportunities. Ellis’ team pressed relentlessly to keep the Germans from taking advantage of the wind at their backs and it worked. Germany could not build up any attack through possession and didn’t much try to play direct. That played into the Yanks’ hands.
Lindsey Horan should have doubled the lead in the first minute of the second period. Morgan pulled the keeper off her line and laid a pass back for Horan to shoot but the Portland midfielder’s shot wasn’t strong enough to beat the wind. Never mind crossing the line, it didn’t even make it that far as it held up in the breeze.
Horan sent in another ball in the 51st minute that the wind held up for Schult to catch just before Pugh arrived to nod it home, as the U.S. pressed the attack to open the second half. Two minutes later, Rapinoe fired one for the back post but it sliced well off target in the blustery conditions. A minute after that, Morgan was nearly in but was fouled hard just outside the top of the box by Tabea Kemme. Rapinoe’s free kick beat the wall but stayed over the bar.
Pugh played a long ball for Morgan in the 59th that deflected back to an onrushing Rapinoe, who shot but saw her effort blocked by the defense. In the 66th, a corner kick fell for Pugh at the top of the box but her blast was too close to Schult, who went low to keep it out, as it started to look like that second goal would never come.
Horan sent a free kick just wide in the 79th minute but Schult had it covered anyway.
The Germans came to life in the final eight minutes, starting with an 82nd-minute shot by Lina Magull, who was given too much space from 25 yards. Her shot was low and hard but skipped wide. Svenja Huth fired a shot that skipped off second-half sub Casey Short’s foot but Naeher was able to make the save with five minutes left in normal time.
Germany earned a couple of late corners but could not find the net and the USWNT saw out a clean sheet and three points in the SheBelieves Cup standings. The Yanks are in second place — level on points but behind on goal difference and goals scored tiebreakers to England (see more, below) — in the tournament after the first round.
Morgan saw her three-game international goal-scoring streak end and she honestly didn’t have many opportunities as the German defense played her physically and the conditions kept her from being able to get in behind. She did manage the assist on the lone goal and another pass that should have resulted in a second goal.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was on the bench.
England 4, France 1
England started the tournament in the early match like gangbusters, running roughshod over the French. The Lionesses took a 3-0 lead into halftime, extended it to 4-0 after the break, and coasted to a 4-1 win. Phil Neville’s squad got goals from Toni Duggan, Jill Scott, Jodie Taylor, and Fran Kirby. Gaëtane Thiney pulled a consolation goal back for the French. It was a huge result in terms of goal differential and goals scored for the world’s No. 3 team against the No. 6 side in the rankings.
The four teams will travel to New Jersey for Sunday’s matches at Red Bull Arena. The U.S. will take on France at noon ET and Germany will play England at 3 p.m.