Thursday night was the “SheBelieves Cup” opener for the United States Women’s National Team as they hosted their neighboring rivals from Canada in Orlando, Florida. It is known that whenever these teams face one another, it will be a tight match, and Thursday proved just that. The 90-plus minutes of play were intense, and a late goal in the second half by Rose Lavelle quite literally could make all the difference for this group in the tournament.
Things did not get off on the best start for either team. Canada has reportedly not played a match since last March, although they played decently for having not worked together as a group for so long and gave the USWNT a run for their money. Despite that, the first half was very rough for the Canadians. Just after the 5-minute mark of play, starting goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan had to be subbed off the field with a leg injury; Stephanie Labbe soon replaced her. Christine Sinclair, arguably Canada’s best player, was also out for an injury. Sam Mewis, an up-and-coming midfielder for the United States,s is not playing due to an injury but a big losm.
Many USWNT fans were shocked and seemingly disappointed by the starting lineup as well. Usual starters Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Kelly O’Hara, and Rose Lavelle were all benched and replaced by teammates Carli Lloyd, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams, and Margaret Purce. Many fans blame the new starters for the lack of performance on their side, arguing that they are “inexperienced” and should be playing against easier teams to start with rather than a group as tough as Canada. However, it is known that head coach Vlatko Andonovski is trying to involve the newcomers as much as possible to get a better idea of who to narrow down his roster to for the Olympics.
Eventually, 3 of the 4 normal line-up players took to the field shortly after the 60-minute mark; O’Hara was the one who did not make an appearance. Once those players got involved, the USWNT was noticeably more organized and relaxed, putting on more pressure than before the substitute changes.
First half opportunities were low and poorly executed on both ends, but some good attempts were made. Vanessa Gilles for Canada hit a header off a cross in the first half, forcing US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to make a save. Carli Lloyd also had a shot at a header from around 12 yards out, but Labbe, for the Canadians, was able to get a hand on it and send it over the top to keep her team alive. Lynn Williams made two shots on target but could not convert and find the back of the net.
After halftime and the changes being made, it was a different story. In the 77th minute, Julie Ertz found open space on the left side and sent all the way to the opposite side of the field to find Lindsey Horan, who tried for a volley but aimed a little too high and hit the crossbar. Not 2 minutes later, the USWNT earned themselves a freekick from the far-right end outside the 18-yard box. Horan was on the ball again and sent it into the box; it bounced out just enough for Lavelle to get a foot on it, bury the ball in the goal, earn the game-winner, and place her team now in second overall for the tournament.
This is the USWNT 35th straight win and 14th straight since Andonovski became the new manager in 2019.
Canada has not beaten the USWNT since 2001.
The USWNT is back in action against Brazil on Sunday, February 21st. Kickoff is set for 3:00 ET in Orlando, Florida.
Canada looks to recover and win against Argentina on Sunday, February 21st at 6:00 ET in Orlando, Florida. It is not known what channels are showing this event.