With last year's loss looming in the minds of many fans of the United States Women's National Team, it took a late goal to insure that the same result against Australia did repeat itself at the 2018 Tournament of Nations.
Australia had taken the lead in the first half when they caught the USWNT out with a great counter attack but the visitors lost concentration at a crucial time and gave up the equalizer just as they were looking to close out the game.
A speedy attack pays off for Australia
Australia's head coach, Alen Stajic, went with an aggresssive, pacy front three in Samantha Kerr, Lisa De Vanna and Hayley Raso as he looked to attack behind a relatively slow USWNT backline. Australia also pressed the USWNT high up the field, looking for a turnover that they could exploit with their pace and it kept the home side on their heels for most of the first half.
After a few half chances, mainly falling to Megan Rapinoe, the USWNT could only trail behind as Australia took the lead in the 22nd minute. The hosts had won a corner kick and Rapinoe sent in a set piece that was cleared easily by the Australian defenders. The clearance fell to Lisa De Vanna, who beat Becky Sauerbrunn's early challenge and then raced forward, leaving Morgan Brian and Sauerbrunn in her wake. The Australian veteran then took on Abby Dahlkemper, dragging her out of position, before picking out Chloe Logarzo's run as the Australians had a three-on-two situation. With only Alyssa Naeher to beat, the midfielder tucked the ball home into the near corner and gave Australia an unexpected lead.
The USWNT fight back as Australia drops off
In the second half, Jill Ellis had clearly told her team to push forward in an attempt to level terms. At the same time, Australia's pressure also dropped off, allowing the US defenders to bring the ball out from the back. The danger with that tactic was that if Australia timed their passes well, they could grab another goal on the break once again. Fortunately for the US, the Australian midfield which had done so well in the first half, seemingly lost their composure in the second half and allowed the USWNT to regain momentum.
Rapinoe was again the most creative player on the field for the USWNT and as Ellie Carpenter began to tire, Rapinoe found more and more time and space on the ball. She created a few opportunities for Alex Morgan, who had been shackled by the Australian defenders for most of the game, but neither Morgan nor anyone else on the USWNT side could find the breakthrough they were desperately looking for. As time began to wind down, the USWNT won a corner that the Australians clearly felt should have been a goal kick. Rapinoe sent in the set piece but this time, the Australians lost their concentration and Lindsey Horan was able to sneak in at the back post to nod home the equalizer, much to the relief of her team and Jill Ellis.
It wasn't the prettiest game the USWNT will ever play but it did demonstrate that their will to win has not completely disappeared from them. Australia will look back at this game as an opportunity lost as they had handled everything the hosts had thrown at them for 89 minutes. If these two teams meet in the next year's World Cup, based on today's performances, Australia will feel very good about their chances against the USWNT.