The U.S. women’s national team dominated England for most of the match yet shot after shot didn’t produce a result. Yet England won 1-0 with a last-minute goal from substitute Ellen White. Defender Lucy Bronze sent a long-range rocket that hit the crossbar and bounced out while goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and two defenders stood by, and White ran into the scramble to poke the ball for an 89th minute win over the USWNT.
“Sometimes you don’t learn about the details of the game until you unfortunately pay a price. Details about making sure we’re there for a second ball, making sure players do what they need to do,” said U.S. head coach Jill Ellis. “Sometimes when we fail, the lesson hits home harder.”
Ellis made seven lineup changes for this game, including handing Rose Lavelle her first cap. Ellis put out a 3-5-2 with Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, and Ali Krieger forming the three-back. Lavelle and Crystal Dunn were wide in midfield. Lindsey Horan, Sam Mewis, and Carli Lloyd formed the midfield with Lloyd as the central attacking midfielder. Mal Pugh and Alex Morgan started up top.
The game began with a high tempo from both sides. There were a couple botched passes in the attacking third but overall the U.S. played with energy and creativity, something the team lacked in the 1-0 win against Germany earlier this week. Sauerbrunn did a lot of work on the flank and helped start attacks from her role on the backline.
Still, England was testing the U.S. out wide, and at times overwhelmed the defense. As the game progressed, though, the U.S. grew better at mitigating this threat. Lavelle excelled throughout the match and used the space on the flanks well, showed tremendous speed and was exceedingly comfortable on the ball and with her teammates, particularly for a 21-year-old getting her first cap. Lavelle’s spatial awareness was often higher than her teammates’ and sometimes this resulted in potent crosses only for no one to arrive in the goalmouth to convert them. In the 9th minute, Lavelle, Morgan, and Pugh combined in a nice series of passes that didn’t result in anything tangible.
Pugh also posted a strong performance and in the 14th minute, Pugh dribbled down the left flank, passed to Morgan whose weighted pass on ground to Lloyd was cleared by an English defender. Mewis played significantly better than she did on Wednesday night. She and Horan stabilized the midfield and dropped back when needed which helped to dilute England’s strength on the flanks.
England still managed to get some shots off but the U.S were able to keep them from getting to exceedingly dangerous positions.
One of the USWNT’s strongest attempts was in the 18th minute and resulted from a combination between Dunn and Lloyd. Dunn made her way to the end line and passed it to Lavelle whose powerful shot forced an excellent save from Siobhan Chamberlain, who leaped high to her right and parried Lavelle’s shot away.
Midway through the half, Morgan nearly teed up Dunn or Lloyd, and later Pugh’s curving cross nearly picked out Morgan before an English defender cleared it.
A few minute alter, Pugh dribbled down the right flank and cut inside to draw a few defenders to her and then passed back to Dunn on the outside who started a nice sequence that involved her, Horan, Pugh, and Morgan. Unfortunately, the attack didn’t turn into a goal.
English defender Demi Stokes took a free kick in the 32nd minute that the U.S. wall cleared right to Nikita Parris, whose shot resulted in a strong save from Harris.
Lavelle took a corner kick in the 36th minute that was intitially cleared, but Pugh gathered the ball and passed it to Lavelle, whose shot bounced off Chamberlain. Lloyd ran into the scramble but couldn’t get a shot off, and England escaped again.
England still had their moments where they threatened the USWNT and in the 37th minute Karen Carney passed to Duggan who was in a dangerous spot only to fire over the bar. Three minutes later, England worked down the flank twice in quick succession, but Harris claimed the eventual cross. Still, it was a sign that England’s build-up was improving as the game progressed.
Lavelle delivered another strong pass to Dunn whose shot was saved in the 41st minute. Mewis tried a shot from long distance after that, but it wasn’t on target.
Lucy Bronze drew a soft foul at the right corner of the box and Nobbs delivered a dangerous free kick that Krieger headed out early in the second half. That was followed by a brief scare due to some communication issues for the U.S., but Harris eventually settled things.
Lavelle nearly set up Pugh a minute later, before firing over the bar following a corner soon thereafter. The U.S. did a good job at starting the attack from the defensive third, exemplified by Lavelle’s patient work under pressure to find Mewis, who moved the ball forward.
Ellis added some fresh attacking legs, with Christen Press and Lynn Williams replacing Morgan and Dunn, but the next major attack was at the other end, as Houghton took a dangerous free kick in the 71st minute that forced a good save out of Harris.
Lavelle found Lloyd a minute later, sparking a good attack that ended with a cross from Lavelle that just needed a runner to finish it off. England sent White in for Duggan, and former Washington Spirit player Jodie Taylor replaced Parris in the 76th minute. Ellis responded, bringing in Tobin Heath for Lloyd, Morgan Brian for Horan, and Allie Long for Mewis. That meant Lavelle moved into an attacking midfield role that she’s more familiar with.
After some back-and-forth play, England started moving up the field and pressing high in the late stages. Unfortunately for the USWNT, that proved fruitful. Bronze struck a powerful shot from 25 yards out that clanged off the crossbar. White ran in past Julie Johnston to poke the ball past Harris to give England a 1-0 victory.
Next Tuesday, the USWNT will face France at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. for the final match of the SheBelieves Cup. France currently leads in the SheBelives Cup standings with four points, while England and the U.S. are one point back. The US will need to beat France and possibly worry about goal difference (or even total goals scored) if England beats Germany in the early game.