The USWNT claimed their first victory against the Lionesses today in the ‘SheBelieves Cup’ tournament, as they set their eyes on winning yet another piece of silverware. The US have won this trophy twice before, as the Lionesses are the defending champions of the 2019 campaign. This is the first meeting between both teams since the 2019 World Cup semi-final that had everyone sitting at the edge of their seats until the last minute. In that match, The lionesses fell short of a goal as the USWNT went on to win the tournament. The match was played in front of an almost sold-out crowd at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
The USWNT implemented an identical lineup as the one they used in their previous match against the Lionesses, however, Carli Lloyd replaces Alex Morgan - who is expecting her first child in April. With Julie Ertz starting, she earned her 100th cap for the national team, the defensive midfielder is the 40th woman to hit this milestone.
Meanwhile, The English side could’ve been better. Many are confused about Phil Neville’s decision to bench Bethany England - who is having an amazing season so far playing as a striker for Chelsea FC. Coaches should want to test a new player’s ability against the strongest team in the world and to also form chemistry with the team. On a more positive note, Lauren Hemp - Manchester City forward - made her first start for the lionesses at 19 years old.
As the first half remained goalless, The USWNT had the larger share of possession and pressed heavily when they lost it, even the forwards took it upon themselves to regain possession all around the pitch. The US players seem to be understanding Andonovski’s tactics more now than that of the Olympic Qualifiers. Their style of play has been an attacking mentality, making their football so exciting to watch. On the other hand, they have failed to finish the opportunities they’ve been given. With Megan Rapinoe not starting, due to lack of match fitness, it became very clear that the USWNT heavily lacked in set pieces. With Rapinoe usually taking free kicks and corners, they were always dangerous - but this match was a different story as they failed to capitalize on any set piece and haven’t even threatened the net.
As for the English side, they seemed calm and compact throughout the first half. Hemp seemed to be the player to watch out for, meanwhile, Carly Telford was called upon to make multiple great saves when the lionesses’ backline was often shaky. The lionesses also failed to capitalize on mistakes made by the USWNT defense. They had a massive chance when the USWNT chose to zonal mark a corner, which ultimately was thrown over the post by Jill Scott. Andonovski should reconsider his tactic of defending corners and should turn to man-marking, this way is proven more effective to defend corners and set pieces.
Zonal marking just causes more trouble, therefore, It would be a pity to see the US lose points due to set pieces. The deadlock was broken in the 53rd minute when the USWNT took the lead. Christen Press curled the ball from 25 yards, landing it in the top right bins. The USWNT forward has been in form ever since Andonovski’s takeover, and her performance today showed him exactly why she should start every game. This goal demonstrated an outrageous technique to which she celebrated like it was normal, Press continues to haunt the Lionesses defense line and there is no way of stopping her.
With no time to waste, the second goal for the back-to-back World Cup Champions came at the 57th minute from Carli Lloyd. Lloyd pulled herself back into an onside position, finishing a terrific lift over the opposition's backline from Lindsey Horan.
A few minutes later, England were given a great chance when the US defense slipped. Nikita Parris attempted a dangerous dribble to the byline, forcing a save from Alyssa Naeher.
With both sides using up only four of their six available substitutions, Bethany England was subbed on at the 78th minute. The number 9 was a threat on and off the ball, judging by the minutes she played. If she was to start this match, it might’ve been a completely different story. A Hemp and England link up could carry them to success in the Olympics and upcoming Euro’s. Lauren Hemp showed a lot of potential as she faced one of the best right backs in the world - Kelley O’Hara, with more experience she can become world class.
Phil Neville to BBC Sport: "Beth England will get opportunities in this tournament but ultimately the bar has been set really high by Ellen White over the last 12 months. There is a good blend of youth and experience in that team."— Emma Sanders (@em_sandy) March 5, 2020
The Referees were very lenient not giving out a single card, despite some tackles being worthy. For example, during the match Georgia Stanway tugged Tobin Heaths hair which resulted in no penalization. They ended up laughing it off, however, the wrong call was made. There were also calls for penalties from both sides - which were not given.
In conclusion, the USWNT still seem to be the best team in the world. Their defense hasn’t conceded a goal since their 3-2 victory against Sweden in November, which is impressive to say the least. As for the Lionesses, they showed signs of promise. With the presence of Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead - who are absent due to injury - they could cause a lot of problems this summer, if they play their cards right. As the match came to an end, the American side kept pushing for a third, while the English side tried to hold onto their two goal deficit.
The USWNT now turn their sights on Spain next Monday, this exciting match will come after England’s match against Japan.
Hello! I’m Toby ( @oosawnt ), I’m 19 and you probably know me as the annoying uswnt & chelsea fan on twitter! Football is a passion of mine, i grew up with it & writing about it is mixing both my hobbies in one! I hope you enjoyed this article