On Saturday afternoon the United States women's national team will face off against England in the premier match of the 2019 SheBelieves Cup. England currently leads the tournament after a thrilling 2-1 comeback win against Brazil on Wednesday. On the same night, the United States played to a 2-2 draw against Japan after they led most of the match. The winner of tomorrow's match, if there is one, would be the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament.
A disappointing opening match for the USA
The United States will be looking for a bounce-back performance after the defense let them down on Wednesday by allowing two equalizing goals to Japan. Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson started at centerback on Wednesday with Becky Sauerbrunn sidelined with a minor injury. The lack of defensive consistency for the United States causes concerns for fans of the USWNT after the team won the 2015 Women's World Cup on the back of their defensive effort. Kelley O'Hara returned after a lengthy injury break and played well, but the whole defensive line is still in flux. Crystal Dunn, who seems to be the expected starter at left back, had an uneven performance as well. Emily Sonnett came on as a substitute for O'Hara in the second half, but she traditionally plays in the middle of the defense for Portland Thorns FC. The World Cup is only three months away, and it doesn't feel like head coach Jill Ellis has a definite plan for the defense.
The rest of the team was mostly competent. Mallory Pugh had a tough game and Megan Rapinoe looked a little slow on attack, but Christen Press came on as a substitute and made a major impact on the match from the midfield. Rose Lavelle looked good in a playmaking role, but it was obvious that the team hadn't played much in the last five months. Alex Morgan scored a goal that was assisted by Press in the second half, and Rapinoe scored a goal after Tobin Heath took it upon herself to attack the defense and send a strong cross into the box. The rest of the night on offense was a bit unimaginative. Still, with two goals scored against a top-10 team in the world, the offense certainly wasn't the problem. If the United States can continue scoring at this pace they just need the defense to improve before heading out to France.
England, for their part, start off on extremely shaky ground in their match against Brazil. They went down by a goal early in the first half and they were lucky not to be in a bigger deficit when the halftime whistle finally blew. They came out on a whole different level in the second half and managed to score twice and earn three points. That kind of performance builds character and bodes well for the English side as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup. Despite a few coaching difficulties of the last year, England has high hopes for France, and a strong showing against the United States would go a long way towards the dream of a World Cup finals appearance.
How to watch
The game will kick off around 5 pm ET - officially listed as 4:55 - from Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. The game will be broadcast on FOX.