U.S. women make case for Rio Olympics

The 2016 SheBelieves Cup wasn't just about winning -- which the USA did with three straight victories -- it was about sorting out rosters for the Rio Olympics, where teams will only be able to carry 18 players. With that in mind, the USA's 2-1 win over Germany in Wednesday's tournament finale was significant as Jill Ellis gave five players, several on the bubble, their first starts of the tournament.

The national team picture has changed a lot since the Women's World Cup. Three players (Lauren Holiday, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny) retired, two (Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux) became pregnant and two others (longtime captain Christie Rampone and midfield star Megan Rapinoe) have been sidelined with a serious knee injury. On top of that, youngsters Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn have come in and taken on big roles on the national team.

Ali Krieger, Whitney Engen, Samantha Mewis, Christen Press and Dunn earned their first starts of the tournament against Germany.

Krieger, Press and Dunn would seem to be in good shape to make the 18 for Rio, but Engen and Mewis are battling for spots and certainly didn't hurt their chances with their performances against Germany.

Engen had not been part of the team that qualified for the Olympics and was starting her first game since Jan. 24 against Ireland in the season opener. First, she lost a shot at a starting job next to Beckie Sauerbrunn -- taken by Julie Johnston -- when she was sidelined with a hamstring injury on the eve of the 2015 Algarve Cup. She is now likely competing with NWSL rookie Emily Sonnett for the third spot at center back on the Olympic roster behind Sauerbrunn and Johnston.

Mewis scored the winning goal when she stole the ball from Germany midfielder Melanie Behringer and hit a left-footed shot from just over 20 yards out that deflected off a Germany defender and fooled German goalkeeper Almuth Schult. The start was just the third for Mewis, who had been recruited by Ellis to attend UCLA before Ellis left after the 2010 season.

Ellis said she wanted to see how Mewis, who is contending for a backup spot in midfield, could handle the physical work of facing a team like Germany, and she certainly passed the test.

The goal capped off the scoring, which took place in a span of 12 minutes. Anja Mittag put Germany ahead in the 29th minute, taking advantage of a turnover by Morgan Brian after a pass from Krieger in the U.S. half, and Alex Morgan equalized six minutes later with a spectral effort.

TRIVIA. The goal the USA allowed was the first in nine games in 2016, all wins.

March 9 in Boca Raton, Florida
USA 2 Germany 1. Goals: Morgan 35, Mewis 41; Mittag 29.
USA -- Solo; Krieger (O'Hara, 80), Engen, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg (Johnston, 90+1); Mewis (Horan, 61), Brian, Press (Pugh, 61), Lloyd, Dunn (Heath, 61); Morgan.
Germany -- Schult; Maier, Bartusiak, Peter, Kemme (Huth, 74); Blaesse, Marozsan, Behringer (Goessling, 74), Kerschowski (Petermann, 84); Mittag (Islacker, 84), Popp.
Att.: 13,501.

17 comments about "U.S. women make case for Rio Olympics".
  1. Michelle Wichlac, March 10, 2016 at 7:27 a.m.

    These 3 games were all good games, not the rollovers of the olympic qualifying. Again TV dropped the ball. Even ESPN3 - couldn't you have stayed on long enough to see the presentation of the first SHE BELIVES CUP trophy?

  2. Gus Keri replied, March 10, 2016 at 7:35 a.m.

    EAPN3 showed the trophy presentation.

  3. Miguel Dedo, March 10, 2016 at 9:27 a.m.

    Alex Morgan's goal leaves one in awe.

  4. Todd Scheuble, March 10, 2016 at 9:29 a.m.

    TV didn't drop the ball, US Soccer did. When US Soccer puts together a tournament of the best teams in the world, then limits access and fails to market the deal, the women's system is BROKEN. For the mediocre MNT it's all televised and heavily marketed so we can see every poorly played match against countries smaller than many large US suburbs!!! Not to mention the MLS populated with 4th division wannabes and "has been" European stars. Ironic that just across from this story in Soccer America Daily, Alex Morgan is quoted about the positives of soccer for young girls - not if US Soccer won't allow them to see this once in a lifetime, amazing USWNT!!!!

  5. Barry Ulrich, March 10, 2016 at 10:41 a.m.

    It happened again last night. The US are leading by a goal, and in the closing minutes, the fullbacks are booting the ball upfield (seemingly in desperation), rather than controlling the ball AND the time remaining. Happens with the USMNT, as well. The ball is "handed back" to the oposition to resume their attack. Can anyone 'splain why our teams don't seem to want to control the ball eat the end of their matches?

  6. Ric Fonseca replied, March 10, 2016 at 3:04 p.m.

    Barry, this requires a very simple answer: They've not been taught/coached to do so! Simple as this.

  7. Wooden Ships replied, March 11, 2016 at 9:25 a.m.

    Barry, I agree with Ric and I would add that our confidence in controlling play/linking passes also has to do with our technical skills. We are strong, fast and eager, in most cases, but we are not deft dribblers.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, March 14, 2016 at 11:09 p.m.

    "Can anyone explain why our teams don't seem to want to control the ball at the end of their matches?"

    I will explain with this question: What tactical advantage is gained by settling the ball in your own defensive third while leading in the final minutes? Answer: none that you want under those circumstances. During the ordinary run of play, building from the back makes for a stronger attack. This situation is different because the opponent has pushed its entire team up high in final desperation. They will press instead of delay and withdrawn. Also the US team doesn't need to build any kind of attack, strong or weak. Turning the ball over in the opponent's half is not dangerous if you have a competent, organized defense. Breaking down a bunker defense is very difficult and shots from outside generally favor the defense. A goal kick is going to use 30 seconds just in the restart.

  9. John Soares, March 10, 2016 at 11:11 a.m.

    Todd, you are correct. While it is shameful these games were not on TV. The real culprit is US Soccer. If ESPN does not want to carry it!? Make the games available to other stations. Better yet make it part of the contract when "TV rights" are sold.

  10. Chris Rogers, March 10, 2016 at 11:17 a.m.

    I can't believe y'all left Abby Wambach off of the "retired players" list.

  11. John Soares, March 10, 2016 at 11:50 a.m.

    On a positive note: Isn't it great that this team can start five or six new or different players and still beat the #s 2,3 and 5 in the world. The "new" kids are filling in for the seven left out (retirement, injury, pregnancy) with hardly a skipped beat....Gotta love it!!!

  12. Richard T. Lynch, March 10, 2016 at 12:13 p.m.

    German GKer should have been red carded for going after Morgan's legs after her goal.

  13. Ric Fonseca replied, March 10, 2016 at 3:07 p.m.

    I agree. After seeing/reviewing Morgan's great play, there was no rhyme nor reason for the German GK to lunge out with legs raised and connecting with Morgan. I guess poor refereeing is universal?

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, March 11, 2016 at 12:07 a.m.

    I noticed that too and rewound it to watch it again. Deserved a straight red. Did you notice the physical condition of the referee? That wasn't the only call she missed, and the rest of the crew wasn't picking up the slack. I don't blame the referee for taking the match when she obviously lacked full fitness, I blame USSF for putting the referee in that position.

  15. Wooden Ships replied, March 11, 2016 at 9:38 a.m.

    Bob, I didn't see the game or replay. But, you're right fitness is key for the mechanics in soccer. USSF seems to drop the ball more today than maybe in the past. Handling things correctly, including the smallest of details, on the operations side is vital and embarrassing. It appears to function like many beauracracies. Some of these obvious wrongs should result in demotions or outright employment termination.

  16. K G, March 14, 2016 at 9:11 a.m.

    As for the final game, the Germans had a good strategy in place with one-touch passing and triple teaming Carli Lloyd. The USWNT starters had a different look as Ellis took a bold move in starting some of the newbies. Against #2 team who had vengeance on their minds from the WWC Semifinal, we weathered the storm very well by timely intercepting passes in our defensive zones and finding space quickly on the counter. The Germans pressed high and got caught just 5 minutes after they scored. That is how long the USWNT has trailed in any game for the entire year so far, just 5 minutes. After the substitutions came on, more ball control and one-touch passing was seen as we bent but did not break. The runs off the ball in tik-tak method require each player understanding the other. That takes time and games. Ellis has a system and the new players are getting a chance to learn how it feels. The conditioning was a major difference in having the USWNT fair better in the three games in six days format. A mini-Olympics to be sure where depth and adaptability are key to outlasting all contenders for the gold medal.

  17. K G, March 14, 2016 at 9:28 a.m.

    For the additional aspect of the tournament, I think the real winners are our kids. Our daughters got up close and personal with some very awesome role models around the world. To see the top talent from US, Germany, France, and England is an unforgettable experience to inspire our kids that their dreams and goals are well worth pursuing. More than TV rights and merchandise, the tournament was a HUGE success in touching the communities and the family of soccer in Florida and Tennessee (heart of SEC football country). Well done and here's to many more years of high quality performances of top athletes and excellent youth- empowering development invested into our communities.

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