Chester, Pa. – A second half goal by Lynn Williams staked the U.S. WNT to a 1-0 over Germany Wednesday night under threatening skies outside of Philadelphia as the hosts claimed a win its first game of the SheBelieves Cup.
On one hand this was a matchup between the reigning Olympic Champions and the current World Cup Champs, the number one and number two ranked teams in the world but on the other it was the first game of the year for most of the American players in a tournament that only began last year after the U.S. players made it up.
So, did it matter?
U.S. coach Jill Ellis called playing the Germans a “fantastic test”, noting that “this is the first time our back three has played against such a quality opponent.” Ellis had to be pleased at how well that trio, Allie Long, flanked by Becky Sauerbrunn and Casey Short, not only held up but thrived against the Germans defensively while also providing the passing out of the back that she is looking for.
Ellis called the performance “a big card to put in their back pocket as we move forward.”
With Hope Solo out the picture now and one can presume in the future, Alyssa Naeher got the nod tonight over Ashlyn Harris and the Chicago Stars netminder set a high bar for Harris to match if, as expected, she gets her turn on Saturday in Harrison, New Jersey against England.
Ellis had said on Tuesday that Naeher and Harris need to demonstrate that they can handle the international game and Naher certainly looked the part tonight. Her one big moment came in the 12th minute when she denied Sara Däbritz with a diving save but Naeher was confident and in charge all night.
The shutout was Naeher’s seventh in just 11 caps but the caliber of opponent and the chance to battle for the number one goalkeeper’s job leave little doubt that this shutout was easily the most important one.
Naeher, as expected, wasn’t getting carried away. “One game at a time, one step at a time,” was how the 28-year old put it. “For me it’s a huge opportunity to take a 90 minute game against one of the top teams in the world and be able to learn from it, good and bad, so I’m excited to have that game, happy with it and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”
Ellis’ 3-4-2-1 is a demanding formation on her players, with Crystal Dunn noting that “with the three back it definitely makes us have to be on the front foot at all times because our numbers are high, so we have to do the work early or we can get punished in the end.”
But Dunn didn’t sound too concerned. “I think with the players that we have on this team we’re all ready to go, we’re ready to press the team and keep them on their back foot.” Team captain Carli Lloyd likes the new setup telling the media throng after the win, “ I think the formation suits us” before simplifying things just a bit. “At the end of the day,” the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year said, “it’s soccer. We’ve got to move the ball and see what’s on and we were able to do that tonight.”
On next is England this Saturday, March 4, at Red Bull Arena at 5:00 pm ET. Germany and France face off at 2:15 and longtime U.S. WNT captain Christie Rampone will be honored for her contributions to the national team, a well-deserved honor for the Rampone, who will play her final season with NWSL club Sky Blue this year.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
GER 0 0 0
USA – Lynn Williams 56th minute
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 20-Allie Long, 7-Casey Short; 19-Crystal Dunn (2-Mallory Pugh, 58), 6-Morgan Brian, 3-Samantha Mewis, 17-Tobin Heath 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 12-Lynn Williams (13-Alex Morgan, 79), 23-Christen Press (9-Lindsey Horan, 79)
Subs not used: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 8-Julie Johnston, 11-Ali Krieger, 14-Jessica McDonald, 15-Emily Sonnett, 16-Rose Lavelle, 18-Jane Campbell, 22-Brianna Pinto, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis
GER: 1-Almuth Schult, 2-Josephine Henning, 4-Leonie Maier, 5-Babett Peter, 9-Alexandra Popp, 10-Dzsenifer Marozsan, 11-Anja Mittag (15-Mandy Islacker, 74), 13-Sara Däbritz, 14-Anna Blässe (7-Pauline Bremer, 69), 17-Isabel Kerschowski (29-Felicitas Rauch, 74), 18-Lena Petermann (23-Verena Faißt, 45)
Subs not used: 3-Kathrin Hendrich, 12-Laura Benkarth, 20-Lina Magull, 21-Lisa Weiß, 24-Kristin Demann, 26-Hasret Kayikci, 27-Sara Doorsoun, 31-Linda Dallman
Head coach: Steffi Jones
Stats Summary: USA / GER
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 3 / 4
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 6 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 6
Offside: 2 / 0
GER – Elizabeth Kerschowski (caution) 42nd minute
GER – Anna Blasse (caution) 63
USA – Lindsay Horan (caution) 90