USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup, but still worried about World Cup
The United States Women’s National Team claimed their sixth SheBelieves Cup trophy with a 2-1 win over Brazil on Wednesday.
Goals from Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson put the Americans in control for much of the second half, but Brazil pulled one back in the 90th minute from striker Ludmila.
The USWNT went undefeated in the SheBelieves Cup after defeating Canada and Japan in their previous matches. But now the next tournament on the schedule is the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off for the Americans on July 22 in New Zealand.
1. USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup and now the World Cup awaits
The United States Women’s National Team didn’t even need to win against Brazil to clinch their sixth SheBelieves Cup trophy. and then some with a decisive win over Brazil on Wednesday.
Winning the SheBelieves Cup is great, and the American players won a nice little bonus, but ultimately this tournament exists largely to prepare the USWNT for the World Cup. To that end, it might warrant a bit of trepidation that the Americans never quite put in a full 90-minute performance in the SheBelieves Cup, including against Brazil.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga and more (US)
– Read on ESPN+: Is your favorite player in the wrong position?
As Crystal Dunn said before heading into the locker room for half-time: “Not our best half. We gave away some cheap balls but it’s about resetting now.” The match result and the tournament are marked as victories for the USWNT but, as Dunn suggested, the performances weren’t quite as inspiring.
Maybe that’s fine – winning lousy matters just as much as winning in style, and the 2023 Women’s World Cup is all about winning. The USWNT would surely pick up their SheBelieves Cup victories over their losses last fall against England, Spain and Germany. But the performances leave room for doubt, and the fact remains that the World Cup is a different beast from the SheBelieves Cup.
2. Brazil counterattack gives USWNT key test
Brazil certainly had their scoring chances on the USWNT – almost all of them came from quick counterattacks, and usually with Kerolin working his way through midfield.
This led to nervous moments where USA centre-backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Naomi Girma were caught alone trying to keep the yellow shirts at bay while fellow defenders Crystal and Emily Fox were far down the pitch.
This is not a new concern for the USWNT, and before the Americans won the 2019 World Cup, it seemed that the USWNT’s tendency to get caught up in offense was their main vulnerability. Nobody made them pay in France at this World Cup, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a risk. And that Brazil let the American defense rush through the transition like they did gave the United States another good stress test after Canada and Japan presented different challenges in the first two games of the SheBelieves Cup.
To be clear, Dunn and Fox, the two American full-backs are doing exactly what American coach Vlatko Andonvoski expects of them. The Americans are advancing and have a very attacking approach, even against the top-seeded teams, but if Brazil and in particular Adriana had just finished their chances, that might be a different post-game conversation.
3. What is plan B for the USWNT?
Andonovski has spoken openly about his desire to use this tournament to refine and increase the intensity of the USWNT’s press and counter-press. Alex Morgan’s goal in the third minute of first-half stoppage time gave some insight into the importance of the USWNT press: after a turnover in Brazil, the United States quickly performed the transition, Mallory Swanson blocked a shot and Morgan collected the rebound with a well-taken finish that took advantage of Brazilian goalkeeper Lorena who was caught off her line. Swanson’s goal, also came from a turnover.
But in times when the press didn’t work against teams like Brazil or, in the last game, Japan and the opponents knew how to get in shape and be patient, the Americans quickly ran out of ideas. When those spaces haven’t been opened up by catching a team in transition, the USWNT often looks to play directly over them in an attempt at brute force, which can sometimes create something out of thin air but more often it’s is a good way to lose. the ball.
Rose Lavelle’s return from a muscle injury could help. She found seams to move the ball with varying success against Brazil, but often crumbled under the pressure as the Brazilian players converged on her. If she can be on her A game in Australia/New Zealand this summer and the US midfielder can click well enough to move the ball faster, that can help open things up for the USWNT. Otherwise, in the final third, the USWNT may find they need more at the World Cup as teams close those spaces.
Best and Worst Performers
Best: Alex Morgan, USWNT
No one on the USWNT can take a beating during a match like Alex Morgan can, and the USWNT relied on her to absorb much of the pressure from a physical Brazil squad. Even before her well-taken goal from outside the box, she had a potential goal that could have stood if a VAR review was possible.
Best: Mallory Swanson, USWNT
What more can be said at this point? No one on the USWNT ends up like her these days. She now has eight goals in her last six games.
Best: Kerolin, Brazil
She gave adjustments to the USWNT backline with her incisive dribbling and passing, and she was at the heart of all of Brazil’s promising attacks.
Worst: Debinha, Brazil
The bar is high for the Kansas City Current forward who has been one of the best players in the NWSL and in Brazil, but she was unable to enter the game and was substituted at halftime after touched the ball only 16 times.
Worst: Trinity Rodman, USWNT
Rodman, a bubble player trying to secure a World Cup berth, hasn’t been consistent enough to fight the berth that opened up with Sophia Smith missing this tournament slate through injury. She was often unable to connect with her teammates and ended promising attacks by losing possession.
Worst: Adriana, Brazil
She had chances, but she just couldn’t finish them. In the end, that may have been the difference in this game, Swanson and Morgan are reliable finishers, and Brazil just didn’t have that when they needed it.
Highlights and Moments
Alex Morgan scored the USWNT opener at the end of first half stoppage time.
The USWNT won the ball in midfield and moved on to transition, with Mallory Swanson taking a blocked shot. Morgan picked up the rebound just outside the box, spun around and struck for a splendid finish.
😱 HOLY COW, @ALEXMORGAN13 pic.twitter.com/t9KkfIAegn
— United States Women’s National Soccer Team (@USWNT) February 23, 2023
Mallory Swanson doubled the USWNT lead in the 63rd minute.
Again, the USWNT pressed and won the ball in midfield, then made the transition to the Brazil goal. Rose Lavelle entrusted it to Swanson, who placed it well.
Mallory Swanson does it again!
📺: @NBCUniverso & @peacock for the spanish cover#SheBelievesCup | #USWNT pic.twitter.com/LpyXNFm51H
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 23, 2023
In the 90th minute, Brazil pulled a goal back. Bruninha sent a long ball to the far post and Ludmila headed it past USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher.
After the game: What the players and the coach said
Mallory Swanson on winning the SheBelieves Cup and the player experience: “The first game [against Canada], we started very quickly. Against Japan, we didn’t start that fast, but we still found a way, and today we kind of controlled the game. Brazil are a great team and they have very tricky players. All in all just a very good experience for everyone [on the USWNT], especially some of the younger girls who don’t have as much experience – they played a lot of minutes. Especially Foxy [Emily Fox], she played this tournament remarkably well. Lindsey [Horan] played exceptionally – she played almost three consecutive 90-minute matches. So, there are certainly people who have mobilized a lot and it will take that.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Alex Morgan scored his first goal outside the box for the United States since June 19, 2014 against France.
Morgan has scored or assisted in each of his four appearances for the United States in 2023.
Mallory Swanson’s six-game streak is the longest by a USWNT player since Christen Press scored in 6 consecutive games from November 2019 to February 2020.
Swanson has scored half (7/14) of USWNT goals in 2023. Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan are the only other players with multiple goals (two each).
Ludmila scored the first goal USA conceded in 5 games in 2023 – USA had won their first 4 games by a combined 12-0, heading into Wednesday’s game.
UNITED STATES: The USWNT still has an international window until the Women’s World Cup. Matches for this April window have yet to be announced by US Soccer, but reports suggest it will be two games against Ireland on April 8 in Austin, Texas and April 11 in St. Louis. , Missouri. The USWNT World Cup begins on July 21, when the Americans take on Vietnam in their first tournament in New Zealand.
Brazil: The Brazilian WNT will face England in the Women’s Finalissima, which will pit the winner of the Copa América Femenina (Brazil) against the winners of the Women’s Euro (England). This match will take place at Wembley on April 6. Then the Brazil World Cup will start on July 24.