France 3 - 1 USA: A rusty start to 2019 for the USWNT
Midfielder Lindsey Horan (left) walks away as France celebrates a goal. | Associated Press

The United States Women's National Team suffered a 3-1 defeat to France on Saturday afternoon. It was the first game of 2019 for the USWNT, and the team looked off from top to bottom. France, whose players are in the midst of their club seasons, controlled most of the game.

The United States started in their traditional 4-3-3 lineup, but with five players missing due to injury and illness the team started out on the wrong foot. Collegiate defender Emily Fox started at left-back where she was routinely troubled by Delphine Cascarino and Marion Torrent of France. It took just nine minutes for Cascarino to play the ball around Fox and pass centrally to French forward Kadidiatou Diani who ended nearly 900 scoreless minutes for the United States. The goal rests largely on Fox, but the rest of the defense and midfield failed to cut off the low pass as it bounced through to the top of the box. 

The United States tightened up to some degree as the half wore on, but they never generated a good offensive opportunity and the half ended with France holding a 1-0 lead.

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis started the second half with the same lineup, but after more missteps she pulled Fox in the 53rd minute. Tierna Davidson, traditionally a center-back was substituted in to replace Fox on the left side of the defense. The substitution meant that all four of the defenders, Emily Sonnett, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Davidson, were traditionally central defenders. It took just three minutes after the substitution for Torrent to find Diani with a through ball. Diani separated from Dahlkemper and slipped as she centered the ball, and it looped over USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher into the goal. After 56 minutes the USWNT was in a two-goal hole.

The whole game was marked by poor midfield play from the United States. Crystal Dunn, who had been playing defense for the last year for America, looked shaky in her role in the midfield. 

Sonnett was substituted out for Carli Lloyd in the 71st minute in a move that was supposed to generate more offensive pressure for the USA, but it was the French substitute Marie-Antoinette Katoto who scored the next goal. A turnover in the midfield put France on the front foot, and Katoto took control of the ball heading toward goal. Naeher came out to challenge her, but Katoto required just one touch to beat Naeher and deftly finished against an open net. The third French goal led to a pair of substitutions with Jess McDonald and Sam Mewis replacing Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan respectively. 

Mallory Pugh scored the lone USA goal in the 3-1 loss in France. | Photo: REUTERS - Pascal Rossignol
Mallory Pugh scored the lone USA goal in the 3-1 loss in France. | Photo: REUTERS - Pascal Rossignol

The United States had a spark of life after the substitutions. Both McDonald and Mewis looked sharp, and the United States would finally score in stoppage time. It was Lloyd with the assist and Mallory Pugh with the goal, but the game ended shortly thereafter. The United States will travel to Spain for another game on Tuesday where they will try to shake off the tough loss. 

Tobin Heath, Casey Short, and Megan Rapinoe all have the chance to play in the upcoming match after they were unavailable on Saturday.