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France routs USWNT 3-0 in SheBelieves Cup finale

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Camille Abily and France were able to pounce on numerous US mistakes to win the second-ever friendly tournament

The USWNT took the field at RFK Stadium with a shot at winning the second-ever SheBelieves Cup, but on a rainy night on the banks of the Anacostia River, things went wrong from the start. Before 21,638 fans, the United States ended up falling 3-0 to a ruthless France side, and in truth the Americans were never that close to a win. Camille Abily scored twice, while Eugenie Le Sommer had the third on a brutal night for the U.S. The loss was the first-ever defeat for the US at RFK, who had previously won all nine of their matches at the stately old venue.

Jill Ellis made numerous changes to the team that lost 1-0 to England, but retained the 3412 alignment. Alyssa Naeher returned in goal behind a back three of Becky Sauerbrunn, Allie Long, and Casey Short. Morgan Brian also returned to the lineup, partnering Samantha Mewis as the defensive midfielders underneath Carli Lloyd. Rose Lavelle, after debuting for the USWNT on the left flank, moved to the right to make room for Tobin Heath. Christen Press and Lynn Williams replaced Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh as the starting forwards.

Barely 30 seconds had passed before a mix-up inside the US penalty area caused some nervy moments, while the US responded with a long sequence of possession that ended with Lavelle’s 5th minute cross being turned away.

France took the lead following a poor bit of play in the US midfield. Lloyd’s pass back to Brian was simple enough, but the Houston Dash midfielder’s first touch betrayed her. France pounced, with Abily immediately slotting Le Sommer through on goal. Naeher tried to snag the ball off her feet, but ended up bringing the Olympique Lyon forward down. Referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin booked Naeher, and then Camille Abily sent her the wrong way from the spot in the 8th minute.

It got worse. Le Sommer scored just a minute later, again following a situation the US should have had little trouble with. A long ball from center back Wendie Renard saw Le Sommer gain position on Short. Long couldn’t do much to help, and Sauerbrunn ended up tumbling over in an attempt to make a block. From there, Le Sommer simply had to guide the ball past a helpless Naeher to stun a boisterous pro-US crowd.

The US stabilized, with Heath eventually forcing Sandie Toletti into a foul that drew an 18th minute booking 40 yards from goal. Brian surged late into the box to win a 21st minute corner, as the US set up in the French half. A Heath free kick in the 24th minute missed Long, but fooled Meline Gerard. The ball bounced towards the empty goal, only for Amandine Henry to clear off the line. Heath went close again in the 26th minute beating Eve Perisset and Renard on a winding run before curling a shot just wide of the far post.

Both teams largely canceled each other out for the next few minutes, though Amel Majri’s slip in the 40th minute was a big relief for the US defense, who had collapsed deep after Le Sommer took the ball to the endline. At the other end, Press won a dangerous 42nd minute free kick, which France managed to head out for a corner that went nowhere.

The US created a real chance in the 48th minute. Crystal Dunn - on as a sub for Press - ended up side-footing from close range, with Gerard making a reflex save. The chance started with Heath, who opted not to shoot before backheeling to Lloyd, whose low cross set Dunn up. Gerard nearly spilled the ball after colliding with Laura Georges, but smothered the ball at the second attempt.

Pugh had also entered as a halftime sub, replacing Lavelle, and nearly scored in the 56th minute. After switching from the right wing to the left, she cut inside on the French defense before firing towards the upper corner, forcing Gerard into easily her best save of the night up to that point. Mewis might have gone closer in the 61st minute, after Williams flicked on a corner. The ball arrived just a touch too quickly, though. Mewis could only get glancing contact on the ball, and France were spared.

It was a miss the US would rue, as France padded their lead in the 63rd minute. The US were caught too narrow in midfield, with Perisset bursting up the right wing. Short tried to recover, but was left with too much to do, and Perisset’s cross found Abily just seven yards from goal for a first-time finish before Sauerbrunn could intervene.

Ellis tried to jar something loose in the 70th minute with a triple sub. Alex Morgan, Julie Johnston, and Lindsay Horan came in for Williams, Brian, and Mewis respectively. That didn’t have much impact, though Horan’s passing was sharp. Kelley O’Hara also made her return from a hamstring issue in the 78th minute.

Possibly the best attacking sequence for the US came in the 82nd minute, as Heath found Pugh at the top of the box. Pugh picked out Horan, who peeled wide from her central role before crossing in towards Morgan at the near post. Morgan managed to flick the ball on, but a tightly-marked Dunn couldn’t steer the ball home.

The US did manage to put the ball in the net once, but on a rough night were denied even that consolation. Dunn’s cross from the endline picked Horan out for an easy finish at the back post in the 83rd minute, but the assistant referee correctly lifted her flag, as the ball had crossed out of bounds before Dunn could serve the ball in.

With the victory, France also won the SheBelieves Cup, leading the table with 7 points. The loss dropped the US to fourth in the final, four-team standings.

Highlights will be added when they are available.