Pregame: The Goal of Growth
The United States Women's National Team was going into this game under head coach Jill Ellis’ intent for growth. Stepping aside from their usual 4-4-2 formation, the USWNT approaching Brazil in more of a 4-3-3 formation. If that wasn’t new enough, veteran centerback, Becky Sauerbrunn, was moved up into a holding midfield position. This left Abby Dahlkemper, who got her sixth cap and third start this game, to lead the backline. NWSL VAVEL contributor, Bianca Verar, talked with Dahlkemper postgame about this transition for her.
“It was good, and Jill [Ellis] talked to me before [the match] and was just like ‘Lead the [back]line,’ and that’s what I tried to do,” said Dahlkemper. “It felt good that she gave me a lot of confidence going into the game and knowing and believing in my ability. I just tried to lead as best as I can and it was great. I’m honored every time that I step on the field and I’m able to play[...] I experienced so much.”
Brazil Dominating Early On
In their 35th meeting, both Brazil and the United States Women’s National Team brought high intensity early on for Match Day 2 of the Tournament of Nations in San Diego, California. It started with a goal in the first two minutes of the match from Andressinha. The well-struck ball from about 23 yards out went towards USWNT, Alyssa Naeher, who couldn’t maintain control as the ball fell to the back of the net.
The U.S. tried several times to equalize soon after, but had trouble finishing. They were awarded two free kicks and a corner and couldn’t convert. It wasn’t until the 18th minute that midfielder Sam Mewis was able to equalize of a short pass from Megan Rapinoe. Mewis struck a low, fast paced ball that took a deflection into the bottom left corner of the net.
Despite efforts from both teams throughout the rest of the half, neither could find the back of the net. Possession seemed dominant for the U.S. in their attacking third, but lack of rhythm kept them from scoring the lead. Brazil made sure to take advantage of the opportunities that were presented, but either their shots had trouble finding the frame or the USWNT defense had scrambled back in time to shut them down. The first half finished with the score remaining 1-1.
The second half kicked off with the same intensity and urgency to score as the first. Both teams rallied to create chance after chance, even in the first three minutes. As the minutes ticked away, it was clear that both squads wanted more than just a point from this game. In the 54th minute, Sauerbrunn was given a yellow, and Brazil’s Bia Zaneratto was given a yellow just five minutes later.
The determination and pressure put on Brazil paid off for them in the 63rd minute, when a corner kick from Marta found the head of Bruna Benites, who guided the ball past Naeher to give the Canarinhas the lead.
With 27 minutes left, the U.S. continued to pressure Brazilian keeper Barbara, who denied the USA’s efforts to equalize over and over. Despite their chances and opportunities, the home team still struggled to maintain consistent possession of the ball, seemingly too frantic to try and find the back of the net.
Things got worse for the United States, when defender Kelley O’Hara fouled Marta outside Brazil’s attacking 18-yard-box in the 77th minute. Brazil organized their set play as Andressinha got ready to take the free kick awarded to her team. Naeher tried her best to prepare her defense for the free kick, but Andressinha hit it perfectly enough for it to sail into the goal. In the 79th minute, the home squad was down 1-3.
The game seemed pretty much over for the United States, who had only scored one goal in the tournament. That is, until Christen Press bent a ball into the left upper-90 almost minute later off a through-ball from Rapinoe. Press’s goal began the rally for two more.
The equalizer this time was from Press to Rapinoe, who settled the long ball and shot from a tough angle close to the endline, tallying her first goal of 2017. The powerful close-range shot bounced off of Barbara’s gloves and into the net, tying the game in the 85th minute.
It was the 89th minute, the United States had not let off the gas. A tie, though it would’ve given both teams a point, would seal Australia’s victory over the entire tournament because of their points gained in their 4-2 win against Japan earlier today, as well as their 1-0 win against the United States on Thursday. Both Brazil and the U.S. were frantic to stay alive in the tournament, but the home team’s motivation for a comeback overpowered Brazil’s efforts. O’Hara, after given a short pass from Rapinoe, crossed the ball in. It was deflected off the hands of Barbara but American defender, Julie Ertz, slid in to tap the ball into the net, giving the U.S. their first lead of the tournament.
The match ended with the final score being 4-3, and the United States moving up to second place (behind Australia) on the table with three points. Brazil is just below at third, and Japan sits at the bottom in fourth. The Canarinhas will try to bounce back as they face Sam Kerr and the Matildas on Thursday.
Coming off of this motivating win is important for the United States, as they will prepare to go against Japan on Thursday as well. The rallying comeback is huge for this host team, and Christen Press explains how she and the rest of her teammates got it done.
“We were down 3-1 and it felt like we had our backs against the wall,” Press recalled. “That’s when you shoot the most free, when you have nothing to lose. That’s what I did and I felt really good and confident from that point on that we had a chance to come back and we were gonna fight for it.”
Make sure to tune in Thursday, August 3rd, as Australia takes on Brazil at 4:15pm PT, followed by the United States against Japan at 7:00pm PT in Los Angeles California for the last leg of the Tournament of Nations.