USWNT Wins Algarve Cup Opener

Hope Solo made her return to the U.S. Women’s National Team on Wednesday evening and came up with a big save early in the second half that helped spark Team USA to victory.

Hope’s stop on a point blank shot by Solveig Gulbrandsen in the 54th minute kept the Americans down just 1-0 to Norway. Moments later, in the 55th minute, Carli Lloyd tallied the equalizer with a left-foot shot off a pass from Christen Press. Lloyd added her second goal of the game on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute and that score marked the difference in the U.S Women’s National Team 2-1 win over Norway to open play in Group B at the Algarve Cup in Portugal.

Hope tallied three saves to pick up her first win of 2015 and her 125th overall for the USWNT, moving her within eight wins of Briana Scurry (133) for most victories in team history.

“This was a happy moment,” she said afterward. “I’ve dealt with a lot of the emotions that I was harboring in the last 30 days. I dealt with that back in Seattle. I came in feeling free, feeling good and feeling like I dealt with things that I needed to deal with, and kind of with a new look on things. I felt refreshed; I felt great coming in. I would say I’m more focused. Not more, or less emotional, just focused. That’s what I needed to be to help lead this team to the World Cup. Just focus on the game, on my teammates and focus on soccer.”

That focus was tested early in the match when a cross from Norway wound up sailing high in the box. Hope leapt and attempted to secure the ball in traffic, but bobbled it and fell to the ground as the ball came loose right in front of the net. Fortunately, the first attempt by Norway’s Emilie Haavi deflected off a teammate and her second try was blocked by USWNT defender Ali Krieger. Afterward, Hope commented on the play and was glad her teammate had her back.

“Welcome back,” she said. “I thought I came out pretty hard but I ended up on the ground.”

The game went scoreless with few chances on either side right up until the 43rd minute. Just moments before halftime, another cross by Norway, off the foot of Kristine Minde got into the middle of the box where Ada Hegerberg was waiting for header that she directed high into the center of the goal. Hope got an outstretched hand on the shot, but was unable to get her whole glove on it and her tip was not enough to stop it from glancing off the crossbar and in.

With that, Norway took a 1-0 lead in at halftime. As the second half got underway, Hope had to endure another test in her net, and the way she stood up to it turned the tide for Team USA, as described in U.S. Soccer’s game recap:

“Off of a Lene Mykjaland corner kick from the right side, the ball bounced among a scrum in the box and then was up for grabs as Solveig Gulbrandsen had space with a left-footed shot. Gulbrandsen fired toward the left of the frame, but Solo was up to the task with a close-range reaction save.”

The stop kept the USWNT from facing a 2-0 second half deficit that would have been tough to overcome. From there, Team USA bounced back on offense. After recovering a pass from Press just outside the box, Lloyd ripped a shot from about 18 yards out that beamed in just inside the left post in the 55th minute to knot the score at 1-1.

A few minutes later, a shot from Press just outside the box was stopped by the hand of Norway defender Trin Ronning, setting up a penalty shot. Lloyd took the attempt and fired a finesse shot into the top right corner of the net just under the crossbar to give the USWNT their first lead of the match. Afterward, Hope praised the play of Lloyd and spoke of the invaluable leadership her road roommate brings to the National Team:

​“Carli is the mentality of this team,” Hope said. “She holds everybody accountable: You get in hard for tackles, you win balls, you do what you can to help this team. And she doesn’t let you get away with anything less. That’s a true leader.”

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With a lead in-hand, Hope had one more test to stand up to in the 77th minute when Marie Markussen fired a right-footed shot from outside the box toward the left post. Hope got in front of the shot and knocked it down, but was unable to scoop it up as it deflected toward Isabel Herlovsen for a rebound opportunity. Helovsen attempted to knock the ball in with a header, but Hope got in front of that as well and scooped it up to stop the scoring chance.

Team USA went on to control the rest of the match, keeping Norway out of the box, often pinning them in their own end for much of the final 10 minutes, to secure the victory. Afterward, Hope commented she was proud of the effort by her teammates, particularly on defense.

“[It] was a very back-and-forth game, a very physical game,” she said. “I thought Julie Johnston played incredible in the back line and I was really proud of our defense. Players were going hard for tackles, we stayed with the game plan, we didn’t stress too much when they scored and we knew the goals were going to come.”

NEXT UP

The U.S Women’s National Team continues Algarve Cup group play on Friday when they take on Switzerland at Municipal Stadium in Vila Real de Santo Antonio. The match is slated to begin at 12 p.m. ET and can be seen live on Fox Sports 1.

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