The United States women's national team played France to a 1 - 1 draw on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. It was a disappointing result for the American squad who expected to accomplish a similar victory to the 4-1 drubbing that England had laid on the French a few days prior. The French side, on the other hand, must have been mostly pleased with the draw after rolling out a completely new lineup for the second match of the 2018 SheBelieves Cup.
The USWNT stays the same while France is turned upside-down
USWNT head coach, Jill Ellis, opted to roll out a very similar lineup to the one that held on to beat Germany in their opening match of the tournament. The only changes took place in the midfield, with Morgan Brian taking over for Carli Lloyd and Andi Sullivan moving into the defensive midfield role vacated by Julie Ertz. The decision to remove Ertz was interesting since she had been one of the most consistent goal scorers for the United States over the last ten months, but she was nursing a knee injury.
France, managed by Corrine Diacre, made a near-complete change of her lineup. She kept just three starting players between the first and second matches of the tournament. Midfielders Eugene Le Sommer and Amandine Henry, as well as defender Griedge Mbock Bathy, were the three players that made starts in both of the games. The least surprising change was at goalkeeper where Karima Benameur was replaced by excellent French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
The USWNT strikes, but France responds
The weather was cool and blustery, but it was simply pleasant compared to the stormy weather from the games in Ohio. Despite the improved weather, both sides looked a bit out of sorts throughout the game.
France started out especially wrong-footed, with a few defensive mistakes culminating in two yellow cards in the first 33 minutes of the game. The second yellow card was especially devastating. Megan Rapinoe took the free kick, which was redirected onto goal. Bouhaddi managed to bat the ball away, but it came right to the feet of United States striker Mallory Pugh. She sent a hard shot at the center of the goal, and Bouhaddi got a glove on the ball but couldn't keep it out of the net in the 35th minute.
The French side responded admirably. After the poor play of the first half hour and the crushing defeat from a few days earlier, a less experienced team would likely have crumbled under the pressure. Instead, it was the Americans who diminished.
The breakdown was swift. Just after play restarted, Valérie Gauvin took control of the ball and caught Alyssa Naeher far off her line. She sent a looping ball toward goal in an attempt to chip the keeper, but the ball bounced just off the crossbar and straight up into the air where it was collected by the American. The USWNT defense was clearly shaken, and it was only one minute later that Le Sommer collected a through ball, sprinted past defender Abby Dahlkemper, and dribbled around Naeher to score against an open net. The US lead had lasted only three minutes.
No goals on many chances for both sides
The first sign of the crumbling American control on the game occurred in the 43rd minute when Ellis surprisingly pulled defender Taylor Smith and put Casey Short into the game. Using a substitution with two minutes left in the first half was a clear admonishment of Smith, who had not been keeping her marks well throughout the game. It should be noted here that Ellis was employing a new defensive tactic. Sullivan regularly dropped back into the defensive line between Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson to give Kelley O'Hara and Smith the opportunity to move up into attack deeper than they normally would.
France and the United States traded control of the game throughout the second half. The first fifteen minutes were largely controlled by France. The United States made three changes to their starting lineup by the time the whistle blew to start the second half, but France had made none. That continuity gave the French a clear advantage, but they could never find a clean shot on goal.
The next fifteen minutes were controlled by the United States. They won a few corner kicks, each of which were taken by Savannah McCaskill who came in at halftime, but despite a slew of opportunities, there was nothing that tested Bouhaddi. The Americans would give up their attacking advantage when they made three new substitutions around the 75-minute mark. The last substitution was unplanned, with Casey Short taking a hard foul and needing to be taken off on a stretcher. The United States made all six of their substitutions before France made one, but they were still being beaten to balls and the urge to play just didn't seem to be there.
The end of the game saw France on the front foot yet again. Gauvin had the best solo chance for France when she found space inside the box, but she hit the ball chest-height at Naeher who easily parried the ball away. The subsequent corner kick led to two French chances, but Naeher proved to be in the right place again. In the third minute of stoppage time, Naeher made another great save off a deflected shot, but it came right to her at the center of the goal.
In the end, the 1 - 1 draw was probably a fair score. Neither team made much of their chances, and while either team could have gotten the win, the other side certainly would have felt wronged by the result. With the draw between England and Germany later in the night, the game between England and the United States will be the one that determines the winner of the tournament on Wednesday.