2017 ended with a nice win for the United States Women's National Team as they recovered from their poor showing on Thursday night against Canada and came away as 3-1 winners over their northern neighbors. Although not quite what the fans would have wanted to see it terms of a full 90 minute dominant performance, the USWNT showed in patches that they have enough individual talent to put together a strong and efficient performance.
The Canadians were a little less effective this time around but they will come away from this loss feeling as though they are close to finding that win over the US even though they ended their calendar year in defeat.
A measured half ends with the US in the lead
After having played Canada just four days before, it seems as though the USWNT had found a way to play better soccer while Canada had seemingly regressed in those four days. The first real chance of the game came quickly when Lindsey Horan found Alex Morgan with a great through ball only for Stephanie Labbé to block the shot with her body after coming out quickly to close the angle down. That opportunity led to the opening goal as consecutive Megan Rapinoe corners directed towards Julie Ertz paid off when the second of those corners found her now well-known near post run. The Chicago Red Stars midfielder did was she does best and glanced the ball home for the US' first goal of the night.
As the half wore on, the US created most of their opportunities down the left flank, and almost seemed to ignore their right hand side. Had the players tried to even out the play across the field, they would have created more opportunities for themselves. The play down the left flank did create the next chance for the home side in the 20th minute as Kelley O'Hara played a long pass for Morgan to chase down, which she did, and the Orlando Pride striker proceeded to cut the ball back for Rapinoe who collided with Labbé and sent her effort wide.
Canada then were gifted an opporunity to equalize in the 31st minute when a blind pass by Horan was intercepted by Christine Sinclair at the edge of the US penalty area. Abby Dahlkemper recovered quickly enough to put pressure on Sinclair and the Canadian ended up shooting wide of the goal. Sinclair was also lurking in the 39th minute when Allysha Chapman tried to find her at the back post but O'Hara managed to get a touch away with her head and cleared the danger.
Canada equalize early but the US recover quickly
Canada showed their intent early in the second half as they pushed to regain a foothold in the game. Adriana Leon and Dahlkemper went up against each other in the 48th minute and the Canadian proved to be the stronger of the two. The Boston Breakers forward then went towards goal and with Prince crashing into the box, decided to shoot from a narrow angle. Alyssa Naeher got a hand to the ball but conceded the corner. The USWNT then won the ball back during that set piece and broke with pace to the other end. Horan spotted Christen Press unmarked and picked her out but Chapman had tracked back quickly and prevented Press from taking aim.
Two minutes later and Canada had levelled things up. Sinclair played a long ball over the top and Prince used her pace to get by Becky Sauerbrunn and then Dahlkemper before picking out Janine Beckie who was waiting at the penalty spot. The Houston Dash forward finished easily and put her team back in the match. Unfortunately for Canada, the parity did not last long. Jessie Fleming, who up until this point, had had a solid game in midfield decided to take on one too many players in her own defensive third. She lost the ball to Sam Mewis in the 57th minute and Press got to the loose ball before picking out the runs of both Rapinoe and Morgan. Rapinoe dummied the pass and allowed to reach Morgan who took one touch before smashing it past Labbé.
Rapinoe imposes her will on the game
From then on, it was a question of how many chances would the US convert as Canada brought in some younger, inexperienced players to combat the veteran substitutes that the US had introduced as the second half wore on. Rapinoe in particular, was terrorizing whichever player came up against her out on the left and she and O'Hara formed a very good partnership out wide tonight. On two occasions, Mewis picked out Rapinoe in space and the Seattle Reign forward cut inside and went for goal on both occasions but could not find the back of the net.
Canada threatened here and there but the US imposed their will on the game and honestly could have scored more goals. Morgan was the next to try and tee up a teammate in the 74th minute after breaking free out wide. She aimed a cross towards Press but Chapman was on hand to make a vital tackle and keep the ball from reaching Press. The US' dominance was on show and in the 80th minute, Carli Lloyd made it three. Canada did not deal with another corner kick well and the ball came back out to Rapinoe who then bamboozled Prince before picking out Morgan. Morgan nodded the ball on and Lloyd was on hand to tap it in from close range. Rapinoe could have nabbed her goal in the 87th minute when Labbé allowed her long range effort to slip underneath her but the ball bounced kindly for the goalkeeper and stayed out of goal.
Morgan then had the last opportunity of the game when she snuck in and got onto the end of a good ball by Rapinoe, rounded Labbé but proceeded to put her shot wide. 2017 may have been a difficult year for the USWNT but they ended it on a high note. Canada continues to build their program towards putting on a good showing in 2019 and they can look back at this series against the US knowing that with small adjustments, they can match up to their rivals in the near future and quite possibly beat them.