Washington, D.C. The house was rocking at RFK but the United States Women’s National Team definitely were not. #1 USA and #3 France were set to go head to head in the final match of the SheBelieves Cup Tuesday night, March 7th at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. After the previous match between Germany and England a couple of hours before, it was predetermined that the winner of USA vs France would be declared the 2017 SheBelieves Cup Champions. Be that as it may, France came out faster and stronger than either Coach Jill Ellis or the United States anticipated, and the French delivered a devastating shutout of 0-3 to the Americans.
The United States Women’s Soccer Team started the game with another lineup change which excluded goal keeper Ashlyn Harris, defender Ali Krieger, and midfielder Crystal Dunn. This may have added to the hiccup in the United States’ performance. The French squad immediately came out striking and penetrating at the U.S. backline of 3 (Becky Sanuerbrunn, Casey Short, and Allie Long). U.S. Coach Jill Ellis was surprised to find them playing so direct, and were completely taken off guard to find themselves down two goals the first 9 minutes into the match. The French goals were ultimately due to weak defending. Goal keeper, Alyssa Naeher, came out to prevent a shot from Le Sommer, but instead ended up colliding with her, resulting in a penalty kick scored by Camile Abily (‘8).
The second goal resulted from another breakdown in the backline. The U.S. backs struggled to keep up with the speedy French forwards and Le Sommer once again split two defenders and found herself one-on-on with Naeher, and simply slid the goal inside the right corner post of the U.S. net (‘9).
The United States regained A LITTLE momentum 10 minutes into the match, but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. On the offensive side, the U.S. team were contributing to their own demise with small mistakes across the back and through the midfield. As the U.S. players appeared to gain some momentum in their attack they would end up giving the ball right back to the French and once again found themselves right back under pressure.
At the start of the 2nd half hopes were high for U.S. fans as they were hoping to see some line-up changes and different strategies going forward the rest of the match. Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh started the 2nd half and appeared to make an immediate impact on the game. Dunn found herself showcasing strong attacks up field, which the U.S. were lacking in the first half, and Pugh presented dangerous opportunities in the box. Tobin Heath also provided several dangerous set piece opportunities for the U.S. However, Dunn’s energy and the U.S. lack of aggression in the box prevented the team from any further scoring opportunities.
In the 63rd minute, France continued to exhibit how much quicker and stronger they were than the U.S. as they attacked as a team, and Camile Abily once again found the back of the net for her 2nd goal of the night, and France’s 3rd.
Despite the cheers and chants from the 21,638 fans in attendance, the U.S. fell 3-0 to France in the final SheBelieves Cup match, and France was crowned 2017 SheBelieves Cup champions.
France intends to use this momentum going into the UEFA Women’s Euro this upcoming summer in the Netherlands.
For the United States Women’s National Team this was definitely a learning curve. Coach Ellis spoke after the game:
“Was it a step backwards? Yes, In terms of results.” However, Coach Ellis and the U.S. learned a lot about their young team and will go back to the drawing board in hopes of figuring out the ultimate strategy to remain the top team in the world.