After not losing in all of 2018, the United States Women’s National Team lost its 2019 opener, a 3-1 affair against No. 3 France on the road in Le Havre’s sold out Stade Oceane. The French scored an early goal and the U.S. could never get into a good rhythm, lacking sharpness in passing, making poor decisions in the final third, and holding the ball too long, which allowed the French press to close them down and turn the ball over.
Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan started up top with the captain’s arm band. The USWNT was a bit shorthanded with Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Kelley O’Hara and Julie Ertz missing the game due to illness. As a result, the United States went with several backups and Emily Fox was a surprise starter at left back.
The French struck in just the ninth minute after Fox got roasted down the flank. Delphine Cascarino easily rounded Fox and centered for Kadidiatou Diani, who took a touch, shrugged off a defender and slotted past Alyssa Naeher to make it 1-0. The play started with a bad pass in the attacking half that became a turnover. Passing for the U.S. was terrible in the opening minutes and it finally cost them in minute nine.
The first half chance for the U.S. came in the 15th minute when Christen Press burned Marion Torrent on the left but then the Utah Royals striker crossed straight at the goalkeeper. The first U.S. shot came in the 18th minute on a weak effort by Lindsey Horan from the top of the left side of the box that was right at goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
There was nearly a replay of the early goal in the 27th minute when Fox got beat again by Cascarino, who centered to Diani but this time she mistimed her shot and it squirted through the box where the U.S. recovered. Two minutes later, in the 29th minute, Cascarino sent in another cross from the right that found the head of Eugenie Le Sommer, forcing a save by Naeher.
Press got a decent shot off in the 31st minute after taking a pass from Morgan and beating the defense on the left, but Bouhaddi was able to make the stop on her effort from just outside the box.
Naeher was forced to make a great save on Diani in the 39th minute in the aftermath of a corner kick. Diani was well offside but the assistant referee blew the call and the French were erroneously awarded a second corner. The second cross led to a third corner for France and this time Amandine Henry got a free header but Naeher made another big save that she shouldn’t have had to make if only the officials had gotten the obvious offside call on Diani.
France took its 1-0 lead into halftime but the score was not indicative of France’s domination of the first 45 minutes. The Yanks were simply too poor in all aspects — defending (particularly Fox), passing, first touch, and decision making.
Press nearly sent Morgan in behind in the 48th minute but Bouhaddi got to the ball just a tick before Alex and the flag was (very questionably) up anyway.
Le Sommer nearly made it 2-0 in the 50th minute after Abby Dahlkemper got into trouble and Becky Sauerbrunn tried to clear it but it hit her teammate and gifted Le Sommer the chance. Luckily, the shot fizzed wide of goal.
Horan sent a good cross into the box in the 55th minute but Morgan couldn’t get her head on it in front of goal, as the U.S. continued to fail to take its chances.
Diani doubled the lead in the 57th minute with a wicked goal from a severe angle on the right side that curled into the far side netting just over Naeher’s outstretched arm. The play started with a turnover by Morgan Brian in the defensive half. The U.S. was in good position with Dahlkemper heading over to cut off Diani but the shot was perfect and France led, 2-0.
Morgan played Crystal Dunn behind the defense in the 70th but Bouhaddi was alert to it and Dunn didn’t seem to know the goalkeeper was coming, assuming she had more time than she did. What could have resulted in an easy cutback pass to Press against an empty net turned into merely a U.S. throw.
Le Sommer nearly made it three in the 76th minute, directing a cross up and over the crossbar. The play again was judged to be off Dunn, though it looked apparent that it was a shot by Le Sommer, and France scored on the ensuing corner, although the offside flag was up after Naeher made an initial save on the shot from distance.
Horan came down the other end and blasted one right at Bouhaddi in the 77th minute.
The French put it away in the 78th minute on a long ball that Marie-Antoinette Katoto got to, then touched around Naeher — who was extremely late in deciding to come off her line — and slipped it home to make it 3-0.
Morgan’s header on a free kick in the 80th minute trickled softly wide on one of her few touches in the area. Press headed wide off a Mallory Pugh cross in the 83rd. Pugh finally fired a shot just inside the far post after taking a pass from Carli Lloyd in stoppage time to avoid the shutout.
The loss snapped a 28-game unbeaten streak for the United States (25-0-3) and the Yanks fell to 17-3-3 in the all-time series and 0-2-1 in the last three meetings. More importantly, it gives France confidence going into the World Cup this summer, as the French now know they can beat the U.S. after getting three straight results against the U.S.
The United States will be back in action Tuesday afternoon on the road in Spain at 2:30 p.m. ET.