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Megan Rapinoe goal sees USWNT past Germany in 2018 SheBelieves Cup opener

The U.S. earned their win over the world’s 2nd ranked team despite brutal weather conditions

Facing a tough opponent and even tougher weather conditions, the United States started off the 2018 SheBelieves Cup with a solid if unspectacular 1-0 win over Germany. Megan Rapinoe’s 17th minute goal was enough for the USWNT, who spurned several chances to pad their lead before having to survive a late push by Germany for an equalizer.

USWNT coach Jill Ellis largely chose an unsurprising lineup, including Washington Spirit duo Mallory Pugh and Taylor Smith both playing on the right flank. Perhaps the only major surprise came at center back, where Becky Sauerbrunn (out with a foot injury) was replaced by Stanford’s Tierna Davidson, who was selected ahead of NWSL Best 11 defender Emily Sonnett.

The gusty, rainy conditions largely dictated the terms to both teams, with the Americans playing with the wind at their back throughout the first half. Neither team was able to construct too many flowing passing moves as a result, but the U.S. was able to capitalize on the help the weather gave them, creating most (but not all) of the big chances.

Megan Rapinoe had the biggest of those chances fall to her, and her 17th minute goal appeared to benefit from the wind. Alyssa Naeher’s goal kick traveled long, where Alex Morgan and Kathrin Hendrich rose to contest a header. Morgan just barely glanced it on, and Rapinoe was suddenly dashing in alone on goal as the Germany defense simply failed to read the danger. Goalkeeper Almuth Schult charged out to narrow the angle, but Rapinoe managed to do enough, with her effort rolling in despite clipping Schult’s calf.

The remainder of the first half saw the U.S. threaten without actually carving out too many chances, with the best look possibly falling to Lindsey Horan after Schult — possibly deceived by Smith’s cross hanging up in the wind — spilled the ball in her direction, but even then Schult managed to recover without Horan actually shooting. Rapinoe nearly made it 2-0 as the half wore on, but her powerful free kick from the left wing was tipped away by Schult.

The blustery conditions continued to dominate the game in the first moments of the second half. One gust changed the path of a U.S. pass that appeared to be easy work for Germany. Instead of an easy clearance, the ball drifted towards Morgan while Schult was off her line. Morgan laid it off to Horan, who tried to guide a gentle shot through traffic. Unfortunately, another gale essentially stopped the ball in mid-air before it could get to the unguarded goal.

Despite playing into the wind, the USWNT was creating the better looks. A poor pass from Dzenifer Maroszan went right to Pugh, whose precise diagonal ball gave Rapinoe a great look to make it 2-0. Rapinoe opted to take a touch though, and the eventual shot was blocked. Moments later, Morgan was chopped down just outside the box, but Rapinoe curled the resulting free kick just over the crossbar.

The Americans were finally in charge, and Carli Lloyd’s angled bid was denied by Schult in the 57th minute. Julie Ertz threw herself at the rebound, but couldn’t quite get a touch on it. Germany, meanwhile, was having trouble simply connecting passes or getting the ball out of their own defensive third.

Despite all this time on the front foot, the USWNT was unable to produce the second goal their play arguably deserved, and that set the stage for Germany to push for a late equalizer. Alyssa Naeher had more work to do after the 80th minute than she did before it, but Germany’s best look may have been Lina Magull’s well-struck 25 yard shot that sailed just wide with about 10 minutes to play.

However, a flurry of late subs that saw Ellis move her side from a 433 to a 541 helped see the game out, giving the USWNT the same start they had to last year’s SheBelieves Cup. With England’s 4-1 romp over France in the day’s opener, though, they sit in second place in the round-robin standings. All four teams will travel to Red Bull Arena for games on Sunday, with the the U.S. leading off the day against France. That game kicks off at noon, Germany and England facing off at 3pm.

Highlights will be added when they become available.