The United States Women’s National Team defeated Canada 1-0 on Thursday in its opening SheBelieves Cup game, barely outpacing one opponent to face the challenge of facing the best team in the world.
Both countries blew a string of chances before reserve Rose Lavelle found the winner in the 79th minute with a low finish after a fight in the area.
Thursday night’s game in Orlando, Florida, was tougher than expected for the USWNT, but despite missed opportunities and some defensive failures, the team rallied to win its 31st game in its last 32.
Lavelle shows Man City what he’s missing
There’s no other way to put it: Lavelle doesn’t live up to the hype at Manchester City.
Injuries have hampered her time at the WSL club, but even when healthy, the 25-year-old has not been as big a factor as one would expect from one of the world’s best playmakers.
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Part of that may be because head coach Gareth Taylor didn’t play Lavelle in his preferred No. 10 position, but whatever the reason, Lavelle never missed a beat when he returned with the USWNT.
He scored a fantastic roll against the Netherlands last November and was once again influential on Thursday with his decisive goal from the bench.
“We knew Rose was going to be able to find the wide pocket and could go a little bit deeper,” said head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “We needed a slightly more intense runner behind the baseline to find those balls that were coming to those midfielders.”
Lavelle, as he has done so many times for the USWNT, was back in on Thursday night. Whatever happens to the rest of her time at City, she will continue to be welcomed with open arms by her national team.
“Rose brings this creativity that is so special,” said defender Midge Purce. “You can get lost watching it and I have to remind myself, ‘Get up, go with the team,’ because you just get lost looking at her.”
USWNT depth on screen with triple sub
The USWNT is famous for its depth, but rarely has it encapsulated that force like the triple sub that Andonovski did in the 64th minute.
Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Lavelle entered the game all at once. After Canada had done so well to keep the US off the roster up to that point, it must have been a bit demoralizing to see that trio take the field.
“I would love to know what the Canadian defense was thinking when they see those three players come in,” said US captain Becky Sauerbrunn with a smile.
The three of them made an instant impact, none more so than Lavelle, of course.
“It’s an amazing thing,” Sauerbrunn added. “Just look and here are three players coming in and bringing something special to the table. You talk about how sometimes you don’t have depth in your team, but this team has depth in depth in depth.”
“If you can afford to bring players like that to the bench, you are doing something good.”
Canada ready for the challenge
Canada has not beaten the United States in 20 years and very few would have expected a breakthrough Thursday night. With several key players missing, the team has not played for almost a year and Bev Priestman directing her first game for the Canadians, a lopsided loss to her rivals would not have been surprising.
Instead, Canada put on an inspired performance, playing with great confidence on the ball and frustrating the Americans on defense. If it weren’t for a two-time poor finish by Janine Beckie, Canada might even have taken the lead. The USWNT was also fortunate not to concede a penalty in the second half when Purce clearly blocked a cross into the box with his arm.
“They were able to compact the medium and did a very good job,” Andonovski said. “They were able to stop the penetration down the middle, forcing everything wide. It’s a little easier to defend when things are coming from the sides than the middle.”
In the end, Canada cruelly got nothing out of the party, but it appears to be heading in the right direction very early in Priestman’s tenure.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.