USWNT BOUNCES BACK, BEATS BRAZIL IN ORLANDO

Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team got their Victory back on the winning track Sunday in Orlando.

Four days after the USWNT played to a 1-1 draw with Brazil in Hope’s hometown of Seattle, both teams traveled to the other side of the U.S. to meet again in Central Florida, where the American squad bounced back to emerge victorious. Hope played all 90 minutes and tallied two saves as the USWNT overcame a 13-8 shot advantage in favor of Brazil to post a 3-1 win at the Citrus Bowl. After the game, No. 1 spoke about the Victory Tour triumph and what the USWNT can learn from a tough test on their home soil.

“I had fun,” Hope said. “It’s not often on a victory tour that you can play a quality team like Brazil, so it was interesting. I like the challenge, and at the end of the game it was 3-1, so you can’t really have too many complaints. But obviously we have a lot to work on and a lot of video to watch to make sure it’s better defensively.”

Nearly 33,000 fans were on hand at the Orlando stadium, representing the largest standalone crowd to ever watch the USWNT in the state of Florida, and the USWNT gave that record crowd plenty of reason to cheer.

Orlando will be home to a new National Women’s Soccer League expansion franchise, the Orlando Pride, beginning in 2016 and it was revealed last week that USWNT forward Alex Morgan would be one of the inaugural members of that squad. So it was only fitting that it was Morgan who put the American side on the board early.

In the ninth minute, after a long goal kick by Hope, midfielder Tobin Heath sent a pass down the left side, and Morgan raced past the Brazilian defense, forcing goalkeeper Luciana to come out of her net. The USWNT forward then pushed the ball left and beat her opposition for a goal to make it 1-nil.

Despite the U.S. jumping out to that early lead on the attack, Hope and the USWNT defense were challenged throughout, and Brazil nearly broke through in the 24th minute off a counterattack. A well-placed cross set up Cristiane for a close-range shot, but defender Becky Sauerbrunn was there, protecting Hope’s far post, and cleared the ball off the line.

However, Brazil did find the net during an action-packed end to the first half. Marta set up Cristiane in the 45th minute, and this time she beat her defender, then blasted a left-footer over Hope’s head and into the left corner of the net. That goal was the lone blemish on the afternoon for an otherwise stout USWNT defense. Hope and Co. stymied six Brazil corner kicks.

The US answered right back from that goal during stoppage time. Klingenberg started the play with a cross into Lindsey Horan, whose header was halted by the Brazilian keeper. But Crystal Dunn was there to strike the rebound with her right foot square to the back of the net to give the USWNT a 2-1 lead going into the break.

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Dunn and Horan were among several USWNT youngsters and newcomers to star on the day. Horan earned her first start and fourth cap. University of Virginia senior Emily Sonnett started and earned her first cap, while Stephanie McCaffrey and Gina Lewandowski earned their first caps as substitutes.

McCaffrey spelled Heath at halftime and came up big at the end of the second half in stoppage time, when she punched in the team’s third goal off a setup by veteran Megan Rapinoe to seal the win. That final goal, from a 30-year-old veteran to a 22-year-old rookie, was the epitome of the USWNT’s Victory Tour, as Hope tried to explain afterward.

“It’s weird. It’s a lot of changes. I’ve been very emotional about it. I’ve played with a lot of these players for a lot of years. It’s a transitional stage and any time you come into a transitional stage you really don’t quite know what’s going on,” Hope said. “Are we playing to celebrate winning the World Cup? Are we playing to prepare for the Olympics? Are we saying goodbye to players? Are we seeing all these new players? I’m like, ‘What direction is this team going?’ It’s confusing. It’s emotional for me and for many players, but at the same time, it’s exciting. We’re going to have a whole new team for the Olympics.”

FOND FAREWELLS

In addition to the debut of several new players, the Americans also said goodbye to two longtime staples of the National Team on Sunday.

Lori Chalupny, who announced her retirement from international play after the World Cup, started her final international game and exited in the 21st minute to a standing ovation. Chalupny ended her career with 106 caps and 10 goals.

“Lori Chalupny and I go way back,” Hope said. “I played with her in St. Louis (in the WPS) and I played with her on our first World Cup Team in 2007. She’s always been one of my favorite defenders I’ve ever played with. She’s confident on the ball and I believe that she was kind of the first defender to change what a left back should be. It’s not just a defender, it’s somebody who can attack, it’s somebody who’s confident on the ball and for me, that was groundbreaking and she was the first one to step on this team to do that.”

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Lauren Holiday also announced her retirement shortly after the World Cup and officially played in her last USWNT game on Sunday. Holiday (previously Lauren Cheney) scored 24 goals in 133 career caps. The veteran also played her final NWSL game against Hope in the league championship on Oct. 1, and No. 1 was glad to be alongside Holiday at the end of her career.

“Cheney is a different class of player. She dances with the ball, she can hold players off and is a very, very smart player who reads the game and can serve a 60-yard ball on a dime. I’ve really enjoyed playing with her and it makes me sad that she’s going to leave at such a young age because she has a lot more in her. But I wish her all the best because she deserves so much happiness in life and it’s just been honor to play with her.”

NEXT UP

Now 5-0-1 in the last six exhibitions since the World Cup, the USWNT will resume its Victory Tour in Hawaii on Sunday, Dec. 6 against Trinidad and Tobago. Three more Victory Tour stops will come in December in San Antonio, Glendale, Ariz, and New Orleans. Tickets can be purchased at USSoccer.com.

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