Tomorrow afternoon, France will play Germany at 4 p.m. ET, while England and the U.S. will go head to head to decide the winner the SheBelieves Cup in the nightcap. The current standings are listed below, but this is a must-win match for the U.S. as England sits on top because of goal differential as well as goals scored.
SheBelieves Cup Standings
Best Defense vs. Best Offense
When England takes on the Yanks, it will be the classic tale of the best defense up against the best offense.
England started off hot with a 4-1 demolition of France. France could do nothing to stop the English attack. While France actually had more shots, England had six on goal compared to France’s one, and the Three Lionesses had an impressive 67% of their shots on target find the back of the net. Against Germany, England once against got out-shot but made its chances count, converting 40% of its shots on target.
The U.S. has scored just twice — Megan Rapinoe against Germany and Mallory Pugh against France — but has also let just one goal in. The lone goal the Yanks let in (below) was a ball over the top that roasted Abby Dahlkemper and left Alyssa Naeher to fend for herself on, just three minutes after the U.S. took the lead in terrible weather.
Le Sommer equalizes. Game on. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/s2v8MKzUt3— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 4, 2018
The eerie thing about this tournament is that typically these stats would be reversed. Since September 2015, the Three Lionesses have allowed just five goals, three of which came in one match. Meanwhile, the U.S. has 11 games since 2016 where it has scored at least three goals, including four games of at least five goals. Still, the U.S. has rarely given up multi-goal games, historically.
The weather will be a beautiful 75 degrees in one of the best soccer stadiums in North America. After difficult conditions during the first two match days made for sloppy play thus far in the tournament, Wednesday night’s match should be a true test of quality for both teams.
Golden Boot Race
So far, only England’s Ellen White has scored more than one goal, with her brace against Germany, while 10 players have found the back of the net once. It will be interesting to see if any one player can have a big performance to become the leading goal scorer.
The fact that only one player has more than a single goal should speak volumes about the quality of the players, even if each team has only played two games. These are four of the top six teams in the world according to the FIFA rankings, so it is not surprising that each team has a plethora of players that can find the back of the net. Here is one player from each who could end up as the highest scorer in the SheBelieves Cup:
Germany — Hasret Kayikçi
The 26-year-old is Germany’s lone goal scorer this tournament, so she gets the edge here (Germany’s second goal scored was an own goal). While France’s defense stepped up on Sunday, England had its way against the French. Depending on what team shows up, Kayikçi could bag a brace and leave as the top scorer.
France — Eugénie Le Sommer
Le Sommer is one of the four players that started in both of Les Bleues’ matches and is a good bet to start against Germany as well. Le Sommer’s control of the ball made Naeher look silly on her goal vs. the U.S., and she can operate in the midfield or up top.
England — Ellen White
White came on as a substitute in the 71st minute against France but started against Germany in England's comeback draw. Her first goal was complete luck, as she tried to jump out of the way of Fara Williams’ shot from distance, but the ball ended up bouncing off White and catching the keeper wrong-footed. Her second goal, however, came from a perfect run — albeit a poor attempt of an offside trap from the Germans — and a clutch finish. She should get another start against the U.S. tomorrow and could be a nuisance for the American back line.
USA — Alex Morgan
Morgan is the only player I listed that has yet to score a goal. She assisted on Rapinoe’s opening goal but has been relatively quiet otherwise. Tomorrow’s game is a must-win in front of her club team’s home stadium for one of the best goal scorers of her generation. She could get a rest — to the dismay of the home crowd — as she has played all 120 minutes since Thursday, but if Morgan starts, a hat trick is not out of the question. Of course, Rapinoe could also capture the honors with a big performance.
Which USWNT will show up?
Let’s be completely honest: The U.S. has been playing subpar the past two games. The Yanks followed a poor offensive performance against Germany with a woeful performance vs. France, as some late Naeher heroics preserved a draw. There can be plenty of excuses, mainly the weather, but at the end of the day the team needs to step up.
Jill Ellis could come out with a couple of changes that could help get some fresh legs out there, but no matter who the XI on the field are, if they do not improve they will not beat England.
The high press has been effective, but when the U.S. gets the ball back it needs to capitalize. Quick ball movement in the midfield will open up space for the attacking three who, no matter which three Ellis goes with, all have strong off-the-ball movement.