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USA vs. Brazil, Tournament of Nations: Final Score 4-1 as Yanks Win Competition

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After falling behind early, the USWNT scored four straight to capture the 2018 ToN crown.

Soccer: Tournament of Nations Women’s Soccer-USA at Brazil Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Women’s National Team fell behind early but fought back to win convincingly, capturing a physical 4-1 win over Brazil at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL. The Yanks knew they needed a two-goal win (or better) to win the Tournament of Nations after Australia’s win over Japan in the early game eliminated Brazil, and they got it.

Rose Lavelle, Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan brought the U.S. back after a Tierna Davidson own goal put the Brazilians ahead in the early stages. The Americans unseated the Matildas as Tournament of Nations champs on goal differential, with both teams finishing 2-0-1 and on seven points. The U.S. finished with a plus-5 goal differential compared to Australia’s plus-four and also would have held the goals scored tiebreaker (9-6).

Morgan started up top once again for the Yanks and wore the captain’s armband for Jill Ellis’ squad. Lavelle got her first start of the competition, lining up in the midfield, and Davidson rotated back in at center back in place of Abby Dahlkemper.

Orlando Pride starters Marta and Monica were in the starting XI, while Camila and Poliana were on the bench.

The U.S. attack in the first half was just a bit out of sync in the final third. Just six minutes in, Tobin Heath fizzed a cross out of Morgan’s reach. The ball found Megan Rapinoe but her shot was blocked behind for a corner. Lavelle nodded over the bar on the ensuing set piece.

Lavelle wasted a good opportunity in the ninth minute, opting to shoot from a severe angle with three runners in the box. She waved in apology for it afterward, but it was a missed chance for the U.S. to get on the board. Two minutes later, Rapinoe cut inside and fired a poor shot from outside the area that didn’t come close, in a repeat of a similar play from Sunday.

In the 14th, the USWNT should have taken the lead. Rapinoe centered a cross for Julie Ertz and from point-blank range she fired a shot right at goalkeeper Leticia when literally anywhere else on frame would have been a goal. Two minutes later, Lindsey Horan tried to find Heath in the box but her cross was behind and allowed Brazil to break and open the scoring.

A passing sequence up the left flank was crossed into the area where Davidson deflected it past Alyssa Naeher and into her own net to open the scoring in the 16th minute, as Brazil led, 1-0.

The U.S. tried to respond immediately, with Rapinoe cutting in on her right foot and having her shot blocked in the 18th minute. Four minutes later, Rapinoe sent in a wicked shot that Leticia got a fingertip on to keep out. The U.S. cycled the ball back in and Crystal Dunn fired over the bar from inside the area.

Brazil nearly doubled the lead in the 27th minute as Debinha was sprung on the counter attack. She got in behind the defense and Emily Sonnet caught her at the last minute. Debinha still got her shot away and forced a crucial save from Naeher to keep it at 1-0.

The U.S. leveled the match in the 33rd minute. After a corner was cleared out of the area, the ball found its way to Horan, who crossed it into the box. Lavelle was there to slice home a great shot on the half volley to make it 1-1.

After the goal, Lavelle got in behind and fired wide and high on the left side from the top of the area. Two minutes later, a long ball in found Rapinoe, who did well to control it in traffic and put it in the net. The offside flag came up but Rapinoe wasn’t off. Two other U.S. players were behind the back line but Rapinoe was never looking to pass the ball and went straight at the goalkeeper. The goal should have counted. It was the second time in the game that the assistant referee raised the flag on Rapinoe when she wasn’t the player offside and hadn’t tried to involve anyone who was.

Rapinoe again didn’t get a call when she went down under contact in the box in the 45th minute. It did appear she was tripped up by a Brazilian defender but she got no penalty call, instead getting a finger wagged in her direction by the referee.

The match was all even at 1-1 after the first half.

Brazil had the first good opportunity after the restart, winning a foul just outside the area in the 47th minute. Marta stepped up and curled a free kick that sailed just over the bar.

Two minutes later, Morgan got her first look at goal, getting into the box, spinning, and firing a left-footed effort that Leticia kicked away with a good reaction save. Morgan was a lot more active in the second period, getting into the box moments later on a ball in and taking an arm to the face for her trouble. Then she fired from distance in the 52nd minute but it didn’t trouble Leticia.

A minute later, the U.S. finally got rewarded for all the pressure. Heath found herself on the right side of the area with the ball on her feet. With Rapinoe in front of her, she lifted a cross to the back post, where the onrushing Ertz made solid contact with it on the bounce, sending it into the net and giving the USWNT its first lead of the night, 2-1.

The lead shouldn’t have lasted long. Marta got down the left in the 56th minute and slid a perfect cross through the area that Thais should have finished but she somehow fired over the bar from point-blank range. The warning shot didn’t go unheeded. Heath smashed a knuckler toward goal in the 61st minute that Leticia somehow held onto. Seconds later, Heath got her goal from the top of the area off an assist from Morgan.

With a 3-1 lead, the U.S. now had what it needed to win the tournament, but the Yanks didn’t go into a defensive shell. Ertz sent a ball into the area that Leticia punched away under pressure from Morgan in the 68th minute. Five minutes later, Morgan made a nice touch on the ball to get around the defense and would have been in alone on goal if not for a foul from behind by Tayla. As the last defender, it was perhaps an offense worthy of a red card but Tayla only saw yellow. Rapinoe missed the near post by inches on the set piece, rippling the outside netting in the 75th minute.

The physical nature of Brazil finally paid off for the U.S. in the 77th. After numerous fouls by the Brazilians — including several by the Pride’s Camila, one of which got her booked — the USWNT scored off a set piece. Rapinoe delivered a good ball into the area to Morgan, who flicked it home to score her 90th career international goal.

From that point on, the U.S. was content to defend and counter. Morgan had a shot blocked in the 84th, then Horan’s shot was saved by Leticia. The last opportunity for either team was a Camila drive from distance in the 89th that sailed wide.

The end was marred a bit by Morgan getting stretchered off with an apparent left ankle injury, but she was able to walk up to the podium after the match on her own to collect her winner’s medal.

The U.S. will next be in action on Aug. 31 and Sept. 4 against Chile in a pair of friendlies in the final tuneups before World Cup qualifying begins in the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship in October.


Australia 2, Japan 0

The Aussies finished unbeaten at the Tournament of Nations for the second consecutive year, blanking Japan, 2-0. The match was scoreless after the first half but it took only two minutes into the second period for Orlando Pride star Alanna Kennedy to give Australia the lead on a superb free kick.

Sam Kerr added an insurance goal in the 81st minute to help the Matildas finish the competition with a 2-0-1 record. Through six matches and two Tournament of Nations events, nobody has beaten the Aussies.