Second-half substitute Rose Lavelle scored a late goal to break a nervy 0-0 deadlock and lift the United States Women’s National Team to a 1-0 win in the SheBelieves Cup. The USWNT squandered lots of chances and the Canadians muffed a few as well in a sloppy match that ultimately kept the United States unblemished at Exploria Stadium (5-0-0), outscoring opponents, 14-0.
“We could have done a better job in the final third. It was definitely not for lack of creativity, but I would say it was more about lack of execution,” U.S. Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the game. “I’m just glad that after missing all those opportunities that we were able to find a way to score a goal.”
“I think we’re all very aware that we didn’t play up to our potential, that it was a pretty sloppy match at times, and momentum shifted quite a bit,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “And we really pride ourselves on trying to maintain the momentum for longer stretches of time, so yeah, Canada made it really tough for us. It was a disruptive game.”
Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan started on the bench. Andonovski started Alyssa Naeher in goal behind a back line of Crystal Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Midge Purce. Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, and Catarina Macario made up the midfield behind a forward line of Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Lynn Williams.
Former Pride defender Shelina Zadorsky started at center back for Canada, with midfielder Jordyn Listro on the visitors’ bench.
The game began a bit sloppily with neither team mounting much but Lloyd won a free kick just outside the area just minutes into the game. Rapinoe hit her free kick into the wall. Then Canada suffered an early loss in the game when goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan pulled up with a non-contact injury. She was replaced by Stephanie Labbe in the 11th minute.
The game continued to be choppy and played mainly between the boxes. Each team got a weak header right at the goalkeeper until the 20th minute, when the U.S. got forward and set up Macario at the top of the area for the first good opportunity. Under no pressure from the defense, she fired her shot over the bar.
Williams got an opportunity in the 32nd minute, heading a bouncing ball toward goal. Unfortunately, she popped her shot up, giving Labbe an easy catch. It was Lloyd’s turn to get a header on goal in the 35th. Purce sent Williams down the right side and she fizzed a cross into the area. Lloyd met it squarely but Labbe tipped it over the bar at the last second.
Canada’s best opportunity came in the 38th minute when Janine Beckie was the first to reach a deflected shot on the left side. She tried to go near post, didn’t get much on the shot, and Naeher fought it off for a corner.
A minute later, Labbe was forced into a great diving save on a cannon shot from Williams from outside the area.
Williams had a shot from the left side of the box in the 45th minute but it was right at Labbe.
In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, Labbe spilled a Rapinoe shot that dipped just in front of goal but Williams couldn’t get a toe on it to poke it home and the Canadian defense was just able to bundle it out over the end line for a corner. Nothing came off the set piece and that was the last chance for either side in the opening period.
Lloyd came close just after the break. Macario and Ertz made two quick passes to set her up at the top of the area but Lloyd’s shot was stopped by a sprawling Labbe in the 47th minute. Five minutes later, Williams picked out Rapinoe at the top of the area but the U.S. winger hit her shot straight at Labbe.
A minute later, Dunn gifted Canada a 2-on-1 break when she made a poor back pass. Nichelle Prince crossed to Beckie at the back post and Naeher made a huge stop to keep the game scoreless and bail out Dunn.
A golden opportunity for Canada but they can't convert! pic.twitter.com/ME5ODBE1gT— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 19, 2021
“The chances that they had was after we lost the ball in the middle,” Andonovski said. It wasn’t because they broke us down. We lost a ball in the middle, and they went straight down to towards our goal.”
Lloyd should have put the U.S. ahead in the 57th minute. A cross into the box found Lloyd all alone with a lot of net to shoot at but Lloyd’s header sailed well over the bar.
Andonovski brought Morgan, Lavelle, and Christen Press into the game to try to get something going in the attack.
“They come on, and it’s exciting, and it’s uplifting and it makes you believe even more that we’re gonna close this game out,” Purce said about seeing three players of that caliber check into the game in the second half.
The substitutions ultimately worked, but the U.S. continued to fail to take its chances with one exception.
Press fired wide of the net from point-blank range in the 65th minute and Morgan sent a left-footed shot and a header each wide in the 68th and 69th minutes, respectively. Five minutes later, the USWNT were fortunate that there is no video assistant referee in the event because Purce was certainly guilty of a handball in the area as Canada attacked.
In the 77th minute, it appeared no goal would ever be forthcoming in the match when Horan ran onto an Ertz cross and smashed a shot off the crossbar.
OFF THE CROSSBAR from Lindsey Horan pic.twitter.com/66E2npFn8F— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 19, 2021
But the breakthrough finally happened two minutes later. Purce drew a foul on Adriana Leon out on the right side and the ensuing set piece service bounced off Horan and fell for Lavelle to slot past Labbe, making it 1-0 in the 79th minute.
Ertz and Williams each missed the target again from good positions before the match ended and the U.S. survived a corner kick that found Zadorsky and skipped just wide of goal at the other end. Ultimately, the U.S. was able to grind out the win but the lack of sharpness in front of goal prevented a comfortable victory. At the same time, Canada also didn’t take its few chances at the other end, so it could have been worse.
“It’s always special when you play Canada and it’s always going to be a really difficult game,” Purce said.
It was a win, but Andonovski wasn’t particularly pleased afterwards.
“When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed, because I want us to score more goals,” he said. “And on top of that, if we allow any shots to goal, I’m not going to be happy and I thought that tonight. They had couple a couple of good opportunities to score, and we’re going to look into it. We’re going to look a little bit deeper why that happened.”
Brazil 4-1 Argentina
In the early match, Brazil and Argentina played a cagey first half before the Brazilians’ quality emerged in the second half. Brazil got the better of its rival neighbor country in the second 45 minutes, scoring twice just after the restart to take control and adding a late insurance goal in a 4-1 win.
It was the first match of the year for both teams and Argentina’s first match in 464 days. Brazil manager Pia Sundhage started Orlando Pride star Marta on the left side, captaining her national team. Former Pride defender Camila started at right back. Argentina’s lineup was down four players due to positive COVID-19 tests, making the job that much more difficult.
Brazil fashioned the first good look at goal in the seventh minute when Tainara fired a shot on the scramble following a Brazilian corner kick. Argentina goalkeeper Solana Pereyra was able to make the near-post save. Argentina’s first look came in the 10th minute when Yamila Rodriguez cut in from the left wing and fired a shot that was right at Brazilian goalkeeper Aline Reis.
Brazil nearly struck first in the 21st minute when Debinha got onto a low Marta corner kick service at the far side of the area but she fired off the outside of the right post. Argentina had a couple of half chances but failed to connect in the final third with the last pass.
The breakthrough finally came at the half-hour mark. A quick passing sequence sent Adriana into the attack with speed. Argentine defender Aldana Cometti fouled her in the area and a penalty was immediately awarded. Marta stepped up to the spot in the 30th minute and fired under Pereyra to open the scoring in her home stadium. Pereyra guessed the right way but Marta put enough on the shot to squeeze it underneath to make it 1-0 with her 109th international goal in 155 caps.
That was all of the first-half scoring and the Brazilians took their 1-0 lead into the break. Neither team generated much, with Brazil holding a 56%-44% advantage in possession and getting the only three corner kicks of the opening period.
Brazil found another gear after halftime and put the game away early in the second period.
Debinha doubled the lead just two minutes after the restart. Beatriz took a pass from Marta and slipped Debinha in behind the defense with a perfect ball. All Debinha had to do was slot it past Pereyra to make it 2-0.
2-0 Brazil!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 18, 2021
Cool as you like from Debinha pic.twitter.com/JDion7IuPz
Adriana made it 3-0 in the 54th minute, taking a pass from Debinha and splitting the Argentinian center backs before smashing a shot past Pereyra.
Make that 3 for Brazil! Adriana with a powerful run and finish! pic.twitter.com/fZevXYzfRe— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 18, 2021
Mariana Larroquette pulled one back for Argentina in the 60th minute on a rare Argentina foray into the Brazil end. Rodriguez sent a perfect back-post cross from left to right. Larroquette beat Camila — who moved to the left side after a substitution — and headed it back across goal, where it hit the left post and bounced in to make it 3-1.
Lorena Benitez had perhaps Argentina’s best chance to pull back within a goal in the 79th minute. Finding herself in open space about 30 yards out she fired a shot but it sailed high and wide.
Instead, Brazil restored the three-goal advantage moments later. Second-half subs linked up as Cristiane sent Geyse down the right side of the area in the 82nd minute. She sent a hard shot toward the back post and although Pereyra got her fingers on it, the shot had too much power and found the back of the net for a 4-1 lead.
That's FOUR for Brazil ⚽⚽⚽⚽— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 18, 2021
Geyse gets in on the act! pic.twitter.com/ZX5VmWzBJ1
From there, Brazil saw out the match and finished with a comfortable win in the opening match. The Brazilians ended the game with more shots (6-2), more shots on target (4-1), more corners (3-1), and holding a 57%-43% advantage in possession.
The tournament continues on Sunday when the USWNT faces Brazil at 3 p.m. That match will be for first place in the tournament, as the Brazilians now hold the top spot on goal differential. Canada will take on Argentina in the nightcap at 6 p.m.