Rapinoe brace opens floodgates as USA rout Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

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Guardian sport and agencies
·5 min read
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<span>Photograph: Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports</span>
Photograph: Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports

Megan Rapinoe scored twice and the United States clinched the SheBelieves Cup title with a 6-0 victory over Argentina on Wednesday night.

The US are undefeated in 37 games in a row overall and 53 on American soil. Under Vlatko Andonovski, who succeeded Jill Ellis as the team’s manager in 2019, they are a perfect 16 wins from 16 matches.

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Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Alex Morgan and Christen Press also scored, and the US women also become the first team to have three straight shutouts in the SheBelieves Cup, the annual round-robin competition which is in its sixth year.

“We wanted to come out fast as always,” said Rapinoe, the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner who plays for OL Reign of the NWSL. “It’s always dangerous to leave teams hanging around, so we were able to do that today. Just tried to find the space, be aggressive. Found myself in the middle a little bit more. The nines better be careful, leaving me out there scoring goals. Just trying to get up there and take the chances.”

The United States shut out Canada in Thursday’s tournament opener behind a late goal from Manchester City playmaker Rose Lavelle, who was named the competition’s Most Valuable Player, before downing Brazil 2-0 on Sunday. Earlier Wednesday, Brazil beat Canada 2-0 at Exploria Stadium to clinch second place.

“Honestly I don’t know how I won that,” Lavelle said. “It’s always nice to be recognized, but I think there were other people that deserved it more.”

Argentina, a late addition after Japan dropped out because of coronavirus concerns, did not win a match but did impress with gritty performances. The Argentines at No 31 were the lowest-ranked team in the field behind the top-ranked Americans, then Brazil and Canada, who are tied for the eighth.

Rapinoe scored in the 16th minute with a well-timed strike on a through ball from Lavelle for the early lead.

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Rapinoe added another in the 26th minute, tapping in a cross from Lloyd. The 35-year-old winger is the top all-time SheBelieves Cup goalscorer with seven goals, including three in this edition.

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Lloyd added a goal in the 34th. It was the New Jersey native’s 124th international goal and it came in her 299th appearance with the national team. Lloyd is one away becoming the third American and third player ever, male or female, to play 300 or more times for her country, joining former USA teammates Kristine Lilly and Christine Pearce Rampone.

Kristie Mewis scored on an angle into the far corner for her fourth career international goal in the 41st minute, and the United States took a 4-0 lead into the intermission.

Morgan scored in the 84th, her first goal since giving birth to her daughter Charlie last May. It marked the 108th international goal for Morgan, who scored twice in a brief five-game spell with Tottenham in the fall before returning to the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, moving her past Michelle Akers into sole possession of fifth place on the USWNT’s all-time leaderboard.

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“I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team and join the list of moms on the team who have scored goals and played as a national team player,” Morgan said. “I just want to be an example for other female athletes who are moms or want to become moms, knowing that they still belong in the game.”

Press scored on a header a short time later for her 11th goal in her last 15 games. The Manchester United forward has been directly involved in 28 goals in her past 29 appearances for country, scoring 13 goals and assisting 15 more.

The Americans, who piled up a 27-1 margin in shots on the night, improved 4-0 all-time against Argentina. Jane Campbell did not make a save as the US extended their shutout streak to six matches. They have conceded all of once in their last 15 outings.

“Overall, very happy with how we performed and how w were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well,” Andonovski said.

Afterward, Rapinoe spoke about her excitement to rejoin OL Reign for the NWSL season ahead of the Tokyo Olympics after opting out of the 2020 campaign.

“[I’m] really excited to get back into the NWSL,” said Rapinoe, who became the first player to score more than two goals in a single SheBelieves Cup tournament and topped the leaderboard of this year’s competition with three. “Obviously I took all the time I could possibly take last year. I think it really did do me well. I think the NWSL and all the teams and players have done incredible jobs with the protocols and keeping everybody safe. Looking forward to getting back on the team.

“As far as we know, the Olympics is happening. So preseason will be good for us. Couple games coming up in April then really looking forward to starting the season so we can get that consistent play. I think that’s the next thing that I am really looking forward to, just those consistent games and that consistent training environment for us all to play in.”