Commentary

USA-England: Own goal gives hosts 1-0 win and SheBelieves Cup title

USA-ENGLAND EXPRESS:
March 7 in Orlando, Florida
USA 1 England 0. Goal: own goal (Bardsley) 58.
Att: 12,351.
 
A Megan Rapinoe cross that bounced off two England players into their net earned the USA a 1-0 victory Wednesday night along with the SheBelieves Cup.

Rapinoe marked a solid game by gliding up the left side with a crisp pass from left back Crystal Dunn and jinking her way into position to serve a ball that befuddled both defender Millie Bright and keeper Karen Bardsley. Bright’s clumsy touch knocked the ball off her goalie and over the line.

Dunn’s mobility and the rampaging runs of Mal Pugh earned the Americans numerous chances they were unable to exploit, which left the door open for England to nearly steal an equalizer in the final minutes. Ellen White’s shot hit the post next to U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher, and defender Tierna Davidson booted it out of danger.

Though England did not manage to land a shot on goal, the USA produced only eight shots to the visitor’s six. Dogged work by Davidson quelled England’s forwards for most of the game, and the English had no answers when Dunn launched her forays up the left flank. Still, had White’s shot gone in and the game ended in a tie, England would have won the tournament title with the same number of points as the USA (5) and a better goal difference.

The USA was the only team to win two games at the third edition of the competition. It finished with a 2-0-1 (W-L-T) record and seven points. Tying for second were France and England with 1-1-1 records and four points. Germany got the wooden spoon as the last-place team at 0-2-1.

Here are three observations from the final match as well as the competition:
 
1. Pugh continues to impress.

She didn’t score, yet Pugh again gave a USA opponent far more than it could handle.

Of many threatening moments, the most spectacular occurred in the final minute of the first half. Starting out wide right, she weaved and darted laterally -- skipping through several challenges -- before blasting a left-footed shot at that banged off the outside of the post.

Pugh’s spectacular form -- she has three goals in four games this year -- won’t be of much comfort to head coach Jill Ellis if the USA attack continues to struggle. In three SheBelieves Cup games, the USA scored just one goal in each of them, and only by the own goal did it edge past England.

The attack was missing midfielder Julie Ertz for the second and third games. She tallied seven goals last year and was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. Major omissions for the tournament were defensive linchpin Becky Sauerbrunn, who is sidelined with a foot injury, winger Tobin Heath and midfielders Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle.

2. New era under Neville.

The hiring by the English FA of former England international Phil Neville, who had no previous experience coaching women, rankled many observers, yet the Lionesses were perhaps the most impressive of the four teams.

Like Ellis, Neville chose a squad less than full strength, but England started the tournament by thumping a young French team, 4-1, and went back-and-forth with Germany while equalizing twice through White to get a 2-2 tie.

Neville was hired in January to replace Mark Sampson, who had guided England to third place at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the semifinals of the 2017 European Women’s Championship. England continues its World Cup qualifying campaign next month against Wales.
 
3. Soccer family comes together.

Prior to kickoff at Orlando City Stadium, ceremonies were held in memory of Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people murdered in a mass shooting at her high school in Parkland, about 45 miles north of Miami. She played soccer for several local teams and was a big fan of the USA women.

Her family and club and high school teammates were presented with USA jerseys with her name and number (8). Her picture was shown on the stadium video boards during a moment of silence held just prior to kickoff.
 
TRIVIA. Captain and midfielder Carli Lloyd earned her 250th cap against England. She is the sixth USA women’s player to reach that milestone.

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March 7 in Orlando, Florida
USA 1 England 0.
Goal: own goal (Bardsley) 58.
USA --
Naeher; Dunn, Davidson, Dahlkemper, Sonnett, Horan (Brian, 74), Lloyd, Long (Huerta, 74), Pugh (Williams, 92), Rapinoe (McCaskill, 80), Morgan.
England -- Bardsley; Bronze, McManus, Bright, Stokes (Blundell, 87), Walsh (Scott, 86), Christensen, Lawley (Duggan, 52), Kirby (Daly, 75), White, Taylor (Parris, 52).
Referee: Carol Chenard (Canada).
Att: 12,351.

9 comments about "USA-England: Own goal gives hosts 1-0 win and SheBelieves Cup title".
  1. Bob Ashpole, March 8, 2018 at 3:12 a.m.

    Dunn was stellar at left back. Very impressive. 

  2. Kevin Sims, March 8, 2018 at 11 a.m.

    I am heartened by the marked improvement of Lindsey Horan. I prefer her as an attacking MF.

  3. R2 Dad, March 8, 2018 at 3:16 p.m.

    I didn't watch the match, only the highlights. But if all the opportunities are coming from long balls over the top, this does not signify a tactically-improving team. It's England FFS--why are we squeaking by England? USSF will be only counting the win, but Japan and France will be relieved we're not improving our play in the middle of the pitch.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, March 8, 2018 at 3:33 p.m.

    You should watch the match. England was playing for a tie and packing the middle. US had about 70% of the possession and was moving the ball well around the flanks as well as switching with long diagonal balls. Rather than describe the US as "playing balls over the top" I would describe it as drawing England up field to create space behind the back line to exploit. I wish the USA men played as well tactically. 

    The US had most of the possession because they did a good job of closing down England and winning the ball back.

    Perhaps the biggest advantage the US has is fitness which allows extensive pressing, speed to exploit the space on the flanks, and players who can distribute long diagonal balls to break down defenses like the men do. Distribution from the back makes a 433 very dangerous.

    There is a lot of room for improvement, but the US is certainly looking like they deserve to be ranked no. 1.  

  5. R2 Dad replied, March 8, 2018 at 8:54 p.m.

    I'll take tactical flexibility--I want to see Ellis succeed after she turned it around at the last world cup. found the replay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BODzUwduhTg

  6. R2 Dad replied, March 11, 2018 at 9:18 a.m.

    I'm finally watching, and it's evident Ellis and Naeher want to build up from the back but #16 Sonnett really had nothing to offer going forward--she played like another centerback and most of her possession were backpasses--why is she on the team? If Ellis wants to play with 3 centerbacks they should be in a 3-5-2, which they switch to in the 75th minute--this is lemonade out of lemons, Ellis can't be happy. The cross-field balls from Dahlkemper were good, but that's the only positive I saw. Pugh had to drop into the defensive half to get touches, such was the poor service. Dunn was effective, not sure why they didn't switch to her from the start. So much has to go through Rapinoe, and she had just an OK day by her standards. England's counterattack was poor and we got away with turnovers in our attacking 3rd. In the 56th minute, Dahlkemper bypasses Sonnett and goes straight to Pugh when England start to tire, making that right back position useless. Our ladies touches weren't great across the board--maybe this is to be expected at the beginning of their season. 72nd minute a long ball out of the back from  Davidson just leads to a turnover. Look, maybe everyone's happy with the longballs because eventually one of them will fall kindly, but when you're playing against top teams--and England weren't especially sharp on the day--you're going to get punished.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, March 11, 2018 at 3:28 p.m.

    I generally agree with your observations, but wanted to make some additional comments. A 433 typically switches to a 343 shape while in possession. The problem with pairing a right back with Pugh was a concern in all 3 games. Some of that is probably due to the lineup changes at right back. I don't expect players to fit in immediately. It is great when it happens, but it usually takes a couple of matches to settle in. The immediate concern for a full back is covering her defensive responsibilities. Over time they add to their game. Dunn's immediate impact at left back is very unusual, but she is a very special player.

    Regarding the England match in particular, their forwards would immediately race straight up the field on every transistion. New fullbacks are going to be very worried about being in position for this footrace, and not want to move up the field until they are comfortable. The last thing they want is to lose a footrace with their assigned mark. I didn't watch the England France match, but I suspect that England's unsubtle north south runs probably gave the relatively inexperienced French team problems. Especially once you get behind, you have to take chances which opens up the field more to counters. 

    Dunn is someone that the coach is going to want to play closer to the opponent's goal, rather than in the back. Dahlkemper certainly is special too. Depth at CB is important because the team plays better with Ertz in the midfield.    

  8. frank schoon, March 8, 2018 at 4:04 p.m.

    I found Pugh the right wing refreshing, I only wish we had a right wing or any wing on the man's team that could play like that. She reminds me of how wings use  take the ball downfield , immediately take the opponent on ,beat them go to goal or go for the cross. It refreshing to see a wing with some one on one pizzazz for this is what I miss on the men's side. I wish the WNT would hire a nice wing ,retired, to help improve Pugh and assist her development.
    Note the left wing, Rapinoe cuts inward and the right wing Pugh tends to go straight down wing more. This is a good balance. The crossing ability is an aspect the women(like the men) need to  improve upon. 
    Also,the aspect the US women had lots of possession time, which is true but it was all mostly all in their own half of the field and mostly carried out by the backline making tons of uncreative square  and backpassess....not impressive at all.
    The women's backline showed little ability in making a medium range forward pass that would beat the English front line opponent(s), but instead a lot of passes from the backline were long balls....I was not withimpressed the US women's play. I do think Pugh is fun to watch she exhibits nice forward penetration right away. And is not afraid to take her opponent

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, March 10, 2018 at 6:03 a.m.

    And considering how young Pugh is, she does very well. Crystal Dunn, 25, is someone to watch too. She is short, but very strong and aggressive. I expect to see more of her at left wing over the next 5 years. That retired winger could work with Dunn too.

    I am interested in seeing if you notice a difference in how the team plays with Ertz at CM. It, however, may be a while before that happens again.

    I suspect over the next 10 years developing the back six will be more of a concern than the front 5 for both teams.  

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