U.S. Claims Tournament Title, Hope Another Golden Glove, With Win Over Germany

For the first time this year, a ball found the back of the United States Women’s National Team net, but thanks to some more clutch scoring and a few more saves from goalkeeper Hope Solo, the USWNT overcame their first deficit of 2016 to win the SheBelieves Cup.

In their third and final game in the inaugural tournament on their home soil, the U.S. women got first half goals from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis to erase an early 1-0 deficit and Hope made four saves to boost the USWNT to a 2-1 victory over Germany on Wednesday night at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.

The United States swept through the tourney with wins over England, France and Germany, outscoring them 4-1 to claim the tournament title. Hope received the tournament Golden Glove, after letting in just one goal with eight saves in three games, and Morgan, who scored the game-winner on Sunday and logged the game-tying goal on Wednesday, was honored with the She Believes Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball.

“This tournament was essential for us to continue to grow,” USWNT coach Jill Ellis said. “I think we held tough tonight, but that’s a heck of a team. I thought that was the best game Germany played in this tournament. They gave us their best tonight, and I think it was a fantastic game.”

The game started out being played at a furious pace with scoring opportunities thwarted at both ends of the pitch. After Carli Lloyd nearly put the Americans on the board in the opening minute, Germany came back aggressively and tested Hope on consecutive chances in the 25th minutes, one that she dove to her left to save and one she leaped up to force over the crossbar.

But shortly after those two stops, the German Women’s National Team became the first squad to get a ball past No. 1 in 2016. The goal came in the 29th minute after a turnover by the USWNT in their own end. Off the giveaway, Isabel Keshowski passed to Anja Mittag who dribbled outside the box and controlled the ball. Mittag then used a pair of US defenders as a screen, sending a low line drive shot from about 20-feet out between those American defenders and just out of Hope’s reach inside the left goal post for the game’s first score.

“I thought the intensity of both teams, you put two great teams on a small pitch and the intensity was fantastic,” Ellis said. “What we emphasized was trying to play out of pressure and then play. You’re going to turn the ball over sometimes when you’re dealing with that kind of pressure.”

For No. 1, that goal broke a streak of more than 700 minutes without allowing a goal, dating back to the final game of the USWNT World Cup Victory Tour on Dec. 16 in New Orleans, when China scored in the 59th minute. In eight games played by Hope and one played by Alyssa Naeher, the Americans had outscored opponents 30-0 in that span.

However, their first deficit since December was just a minor hiccup for the United States women, and it took them a mere six minutes to erase it. The equalizer came in the 35th minute. When Meghan Klingenberg lofted a beautiful ball from midfield to just outside Germany’s box, where it found Morgan on the run. The veteran forward then made an incredible move to lift the ball with her left foot over crashing German defender Saskia Bartusiak, then fired a shot with her right foot, driving the ball past German goalkeeper Almuth Schult to knot the score at 1-1.

“All I remember is receiving the ball and seeing the defender coming in fast, so I thought my only chance was to pop it over her. And after I did that successfully I thought, I might as well go for the volley,” Morgan said. ““I think I was a little shocked…that’s why I probably didn’t celebrate.”

It took just six more minutes after Morgan’s tally for the USWNT to go ahead for good. The U.S. kept on the attacking end following the goal, putting pressure on Schult, who has replaced the retired Nadine Angerer, widely respected as one of the greatest keepers in the world, in net for the German National team.

In the 41st minute, all that pressure finally broke through on the 25-year-old keeper.

Like Germany’s lone score, the tie-breaking goal for the USWNT came off a turnover. This time it was Samantha Mewis, who took the ball away from German defender Melanie Behringer and dribbled to the top of the penalty box. From 20 yards out Mewis launched a strike that deflected off the foot of another German defender Babett Peter. The deflection delayed Schult’s reaction long enough that she wasn’t in position to cleanly field the ball and it evaded her grasp as it rolled into the back of the net to give the U.S. the lead.

“I’ve never really been in a game that fast before,” said Mewis, who earned her eighth career cap and made her third career start. “I think I kind of expected a higher level game than I had probably ever seen before. But I was kind of calm knowing that I play at that level with this team in practice quite often…it’s calming to know that my daily practices are so challenging and that I’m playing with such great players that I feel like I could play against anyone.”

Her goal sent the USWNT into halftime with a 2-1 lead and they held that edge for the duration. Hope faced few second half challenges but stood tall to each, notching her 147th career win in her 193rd cap. The victory also moved the U.S. to 9-0 in the 2016 calendar year, outscoring opponents by a daunting 32-1 margin.

More importantly, it gave them wins over three high-level opponents, defeating the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5 teams in the world in the span of the week. The confidence that comes with such wins is a big boost, but Hope notes there is still much work yet to be done for the United States women in preparation for this summer’s Olympics.

“The Olympics, everybody knows, is going to be much more intense, much more competitive. Right now, all these great teams that we’ve played, they’re gearing up, they’re trying new players, they’re trying new lineups, it’s not full roster,” she said. “It feels great [to win], but we have a long way to go.”

NEXT UP

The USWNT won’t be back in action for nearly a month as they take a well-earned breather before a pair of friendlies with Colombia in early April.

The first of those two matches will be played on Wednesday, April 6 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut, home of the University of Connecticut. The game begins at 4 p.m. PT and can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Four days later, the USWNT and Colombia hit the pitch in Chester, Pennsylvania at Talen Energy Stadium, home of the MLS Philadelphia Union, on Sunday, April 10. That game is slated to begin at 2 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN.

Tickets for both matches are available at USSoccer.com.

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