The Women’s World Cup is drawing ever closer and preparations are ramping up. The annual She Believes Cup is underway and the first day was full of surprises. England and Brazil got the tournament underway with the Three Lionesses earning a 2-1, come-from-behind victory on a wonder strike by Bethany Mead. Then it was time for the USWNT to take the field. They looked the better of the two teams for much of the game with Megan Rapinoe giving the US a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. But the first of several defensive lapses by the US gifted Japan an equalizer in the 67th minute. Alex Morgan responded just nine minutes later with her 99th international goal before Japan took advantage of another defensive lapse by the US to equalize in stoppage time. The US must now turn their attention to the aforementioned Three Lionesses of England.
Issues on the defensive end seemed to be the theme of the night for the US as they led to both Japanese equalizers. US manager Jill Ellis was dismissive of these issues believing it to be a simple, one-time mistake and saying that the personality of the team is one that wants to be on the front foot. However, Megan Rapinoe feels a little bit differently. “We just get caught sometimes going forward too much, taking too many risks, and we just need to control the game when we have it in hand,” she said. “Obviously, when you get to the World Cup, you play more defense than you probably play offense.” On one hand, the numbers might suggest that Ellis is right: the US has kept clean sheets in ten of their last twelve games. But on the other hand, the numbers might suggest that Rapinoe is right: in two of their three games this year the US has given up three goals to France and two goals to Japan. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle but if the manager and one of the team’s veterans are this far apart in their view of the team’s issues, it could be something worth keeping an eye on.
On the bright side for the US was their prowess in the attack. Alex Morgan is playing some of her best international soccer right now. Tobin Heath is still doing Tobin Heath things and her assist to Rapinoe was a thing of beauty. Christen Press’ substitution for Mallory Pugh in the second half was an excellent move by Ellis as Press immediately made things uncomfortable for the Japanese defenders. The goal scoring numbers from the last few games have been low but putting two past Japan could be a sign of good things to come this summer.
For England, their roster for this tournament is a good one. It starts at the top with their manager, who is none other than former Manchester United and Everton defender Phil Neville. Neville made more than 500 appearances in the Premier League as well as earning an additional 59 caps for England at the international level. His appointment came as somewhat of a surprise as he had only ever been an assistant at Valencia in 2016. Furthermore, former Canada manager John Herdman (a native of England) was considered the favorite for the job but he stayed in Canada to manage the men’s national team. In terms of their players there’s a lot of experience on the field. Six of their players have more than 50 caps, and two of those six have over 100. There’s also plenty of scoring, with seven players having scored at least ten goals. Karen Carney leads the team in both categories with 136 caps and 31 goals. Up front Ellen White leads the way with 76 caps and 27 goals. There are also several English players who ply their trade stateside in the NWSL: Alex Greenwood of the Houston Dash, Jodie Taylor of Reign FC, and Chioma Ubogagu of the Orlando Pride.
1. The standings for the She Believes Cup are as follows: England (3 points), USA (1 point), Japan (1 point), Brazil (0 points).
2. As of February 21, roughly 16,000 tickets have been sold for the US/England game in Nashville.
3. Saturday marks the third time in the last six years the USWNT has played in Nashville, the previous two games being against Scotland in 2013 and France in 2016.
When and where to watch the game on US TV
USA leads 10-4-1
March 7, 2018
Orlando City Stadium
USA 1-0 England
Current FIFA Ranking
She Believes Cup
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
USA vs. Brazil
Raymond James Stadium
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