It took the United States Women’s National Team some time to find their shooting boots, but eventually they did, and ran Argentina off the field in a 6-0 win at Exploria Stadium. With the victory, the USWNT claimed their second straight SheBelieves Cup championship and their fourth in the event’s six years of existence. Rose Lavelle was named the tournament’s MVP.
Megan Rapinoe scored the first two goals and she was vital in setting up Carli Lloyd’s strike. Kristie Mewis scored a banger and assisted on Lloyd’s goal as the U.S. rolled to their first and only comfortable win of the tournament. Alex Morgan and Christen Press added second-half strikes.
“It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low,” said USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski after the match. “It’s hard to break them down and it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions, and how we can do it. So, overall very happy with how we performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”
The United States improved to 7-0-0 at Exploria Stadium, outscoring opponents by a combined 22-0 in those matches. The USWNT is 4-0-0 in the all-time series against Argentina, outscoring La Albiceleste by a combined 28-0. The U.,S. finished 3-0-0 in the tournament with an aggregate score of 9-0 to claim the trophy. Argentina went 0-3-0 and finished fourth in its first appearance in the SheBelieves Cup.
Andonovski rotated his squad a bit, starting Jane Campbell in goal behind a back line of Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Casey Krueger. The midfield trio of Julie Ertz, Lavelle, and Kristie Mewis played beneath a forward line of Press, Lloyd, and Rapinoe. Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan started on the bench.
Argentina started out playing stifling defense and a good line at the back, forcing numerous offside calls on the U.S. early. When the USWNT did manage to get the ball into good areas, the tournament-long problem of sharpness in the final third was still a problem at times.
Despite that, the U.S. broke the deadlock 16 minutes in. Lavelle played a great ball over the top to Rapinoe, who made a well-timed diagonal run to get in behind just as the ball arrived. Rapinoe smashed a low shot past goalkeeper Solana Pereyra to make it 1-0.
Mewis nearly made it 2-0 in the 18th minute, getting on the end of a cross but heading just wide of the left post. Four minutes later, Rapinoe sent a free kick into the area that found Ertz, but the midfielder hit her shot straight at Pereyra.
The second goal came in the 26th minute when Press sent a nice pass to release Lloyd up the right side. Lloyd broke in on goal, drew Pereyra’s attention and slotted a pass across for Rapinoe’s easy finish, making it 2-0. It was Rapinoe’s 57th career goal.
Lloyd should have made it 3-0 moments later when Rapinoe sent her in alone but she got tangled in her own feet trying to set herself for the shot and her shot skipped wide as she fell in the box. Press then hit a hard shot on goal that Pereyra saved in the 31st minute as the U.S. continued to attack.
The USWNT scored an exquisite team goal in the 35th minute. Davidson sent a ball forward to Rapinoe, who one-timed a nutmeg pass through her defender to release Mewis down the left flank. Mewis crossed in an easy pass for Lloyd to one-time past Pereyra to make it 3-0.
Mewis finished the first-half scoring by making a great move at the top of the box to leave her defender flat-footed, broke in behind, and scored a banger from the left side that slipped inside the far post for her fourth career goal to make it 4-0 in the 41st minute.
“Early on, when we started the game, Kristie was was trying to figure out those areas that I was talking about, or the position where she could impact the game,” Andonovski said. “It took a little bit of time, but once she figured it out, I thought she was very good. She scored a great goal, she assisted on a very nice goal as well. The whole buildup and the execution was very good and she she she was able to impact the game different ways.”
That was it for the first-half scoring and Argentina had to be relieved when the halftime whistle blew. Midge Purce, Morgan, and Lindsey Horan came on to start the second half in place of Krueger, Lloyd, and Lavelle.
Rapinoe nearly completed her hat trick two minutes after the restart, but hit a free kick just inches over the crossbar.
The U.S. didn’t fashion too many chances in the second period, but didn’t need to. After making several substitutions, the team played a bit disjointed and at times too deliberate, which was easier for Argentina to defend. Press smashed a shot wide of the far post in the 64th minute and a minute later substitute Sophia Smith danced around several defenders and fed a pass to an open Mewis, who fired just wide of goal.
In the 77th minute, a corner kick cross nearly found Horan’s head but barely cleared her. Morgan got a foot to it but it trickled out wide of goal.
Morgan got her goal in the 85th minute. Sauerbrunn won the ball in her own end and knocked it up field to Smith, who cut in from the left to the middle of the field. Once there, Smith slotted a nice through ball that sent Morgan in between the defenders and the Orlando striker sent her shot past Pereyra to make it 5-0. It was Morgan’s 108th career international goal, moving her into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time USWNT scoring list.
“I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team, and join the list of moms on the team who have scored goals and played as a national team player,” Morgan said. “I just want to kind of be an example for for other female athletes who are moms or want to become moms knowing that they still belong in the game. You can be a mom and still be at the top of your game, so I want to continue to show that and and tonight was the first step of that.”
Moments later, Press added to the total. Morgan sent a shot that deflected out off a defender for a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, Horan got her head to the cross and nodded back across the box to a wide-open Press, who headed home her 60th career goal to make it 6-0.
Morgan nearly scored a seventh in the 90th minute when she sent a header just inches over the bar off a set piece. The match ended without any stoppage time and the U.S. had another SheBelieves Cup trophy.
The U.S. out-shot Argentina 27-1 (11-0 on target), held 68% of the possession, and had more corner kicks (7-0).
The USWNT became the first team to finish all three SheBelieves Cup matches without conceding a goal.
“We’re always happy to be able to kind of hoist the trophy at the end, it’s it’s a fun feeling and hopefully we can, we can keep doing that,” Lavelle said.
Canada 0-2 Brazil
In the early match, Orlando Pride star Marta played a more advanced role for Brazil than in previous games in the competition, starting and serving as her team’s captain. The Brazilians did their damage in the first half with good pressure and passing, taking control before the break in a 2-0 win.
Both sides looked to be in an attacking mood, but Brazil got the first decent look in the sixth minute when Bruna headed wide of goal off a corner kick cross.
The breakthrough didn’t take long. Brazil’s pressure paid off in the 14th minute when Adriana stepped in a passing lane and won a battle for the ball. She then played a quick give-and-go with Debinha and bombed down the left side of the penalty area before unleashing a shot. The shot nutmegged Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe but hit the far post and stayed out. Debinha was the first to reach the loose ball and knocked it in to make it 1-0 for the Brazilians.
Marta cut in from right to left in the 27th minute and smashed a cannon shot toward goal but former Pride teammate Shelina Zadorsky was able to block it.
Brazil’s pressure continued to create issues for Canada. The Canadians struggled to clear their area and that allowed Julia to double Brazil’s lead in the 39th minute. She took possession on the right side of the penalty area, turned and fired inside the far post to make it 2-0.
Adriana nearly tripled the lead in the 45th minute. The Brazilians worked the ball from left to middle where Adriana unleashed a long-range shot that would have gone in if Labbe hadn’t gotten a hand to it to push it onto the crossbar.
Brazil took its deserved two-goal lead to the break. Canada struggled to connect in the final third and created very little. The best Canadian opportunity of the opening period came when Barbara was caught out of goal and Nichelle Prince had a wide-open net to shoot at from long range. Prince waited a bit too long to shoot and then fired a bit wide.
Canada came out with more determination to start the second half, and Brazil’s intensity seemed to drop after subbing off Marta and Debinha. Pride midfielder Jordyn Listro started the second half for Canada, while her former Pride teammate Camila came on for the Brazilians.
Despite some early pressure, Canada didn’t generate much and Brazil settled into the second half, with much of the first 20 minutes played in the middle third of the field. Evelyne Viens nearly got in behind for Canada in the 66th minute but she was just offside.
In the 71st minute, Janine Beckie sent a cross through Brazil’s six but a sliding Adriana Leon couldn’t quite reach it as Canada continued to find the right touch on the final ball in the attacking end. Moments later, Listro switched play nicely and Leon was sent down the left. She cut inside and sent a shot on goal that Barbara misplayed but Canada couldn’t capitalize.
Canada’s best opportunity of the game came in the 84th minute. Beckie lined up a free kick from the left and sent a curling ball into the box. Zadorsky stretched out a leg and got a toe on it and it hit off the post. The ball came back to Zadorsky as she was lying on the ground. She fired from a prone position but the shot was cleared off the line by the defense.
Beckie headed a shot toward goal off a pass from Leon moments later but it took a deflection and went wide. Viens then got free on a set piece in the area when the ball fell at her feet but she skied her effort over the bar early in stoppage time. One last shot from Beckie was hit right at Barbara deep in stoppage time and that brought the match to a close.
Brazil finished second in the SheBelieves Cup with a 2-1-0 record and a +3 goal differential. Canada fell to 1-2-0 and was -2, finishing third.
That’s it for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup — the first one to take place exclusively in one venue.