USWNT Edges England In Tampa Thriller

The competition for the United States Women’s National Team ramped up considerably on Thursday night in the opener of the SheBelieves Cup, and Hope Solo and her squad were up to the challenge.

Hope logged her 96th clean sheet as a member of the USWNT and Crystal Dunn tallied a late goal to give the U.S. a 1-0 win over England at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The victory was the USWNT’s seventh straight to start 2016 and marked Hope’s 145th career win as a member of the National Team, extending her national record.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis commented after the game that she was pleased with her team’s effort against one of the world’s rising women’s soccer nations.

“England’s five in the world, bronze medalist in the World Cup, so you can’t take that away,” she said. “This is exactly what we need, is these tight games. And they’re a very physical team. And I think tonight we took a few knocks but we’ll come through it.”

In a back and forth battle that stayed at a stalemate for over 70 minutes, No. 1 faced six shots and the England Women’s National Team put two on her net. But Hope was up to the task. She came up with her biggest save of the match in the 59th minute with the game still knotted up at nil-nil. English forwards Toni Duggan and Jodie Taylor went on the attack and got a numbers advantage against the American defense, with only Becky Sauerbrunn left in front of Hope.

Sauerbrunn worked hard to ensure Duggan couldn’t pass across to Taylor, forcing the English winger to take a shot from about 10 yards away. The low line drive shot didn’t fool No. 1, who dove to her right and stopped it with ease to keep the score even.

The game remained even for another 10 minutes before the Stars and Stripes struck for the first and only score of the game off the foot of Dunn. It came shortly after the 23-year-old was subbed in for 17-year-old forward Mallory Pugh in the 67th minute. Dunn wasted little time making her presence felt with fresh legs off the bench and skill to match.

Using her speed and a brilliant boot she put the U.S. on the board in the 72nd minute. The play developed after the USWNT set up near the England goal. Within striking distance, American defender Meghan Klingenberg pushed a ball between two English defenders to find Dunn in the penalty area. The young forward took a few dribbles to her right, gained some space and scorched the ball toward the net. It found the mark in the upper 90 on the left side of English goalkeeper Karen Bardsley’s net, to give the USWNT a 1-0 advantage.

“A lot of people were like, did you mean to put it there? And of course, initially you say yes. But no. In my head, I was like I saw the goal, aimed for it, and it just happened to go in,” Dunn said. “It definitely goes down as probably top-five (goals) in my whole career. For me it was a really good feeling, and obviously we won the whole game, so that’s what really counts.”

The goal was Dunn’s seventh of the year for the Americans, tying team captain Carli Lloyd’s mark for most by a U.S. player so far in 2016. Hope, who earned her 191st cap with the start, carried the day from there, preserving a 1-0 victory in the SheBelieves Cup opener for the United States Women’s National Team. The U.S. women are now 7-0 for the season and have outscored opponents 29-0.

NEXT UP

The United States Women’s National Team will continue their three-game run through the SheBelieves Cup on Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee where they will host France.

The French Women’s National Team is already 0-1 in the SheBelieves Cup after falling to Germany 1-0 in the opening match on Thursday. Entering the second stage of the round robin, the USWNT and Germany are knotted at the top of the Cup standings each three points and a goal differential of +1.

The battle between the U.S. and France opens play in Nashville on Sunday at Noon PT and can be seen live on ESPN 3. A matchup between Germany and England will follow.

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