USWNT pulls away for SheBelieves Cup win over Brazil

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Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read
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Brazil provided the challenge U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski expected, but the Americans still scrapped out a 2-0 victory during the second match of the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on Sunday.

The match immediately differed from the Americans’ tournament-opening win over Canada. Andonovski lined his team up with all three forwards to the left of the center circle, launching the speedy unit toward the box immediately after the opening kick. The U.S. continued to race to the box throughout the match.

Christen Press broke through during the flurry of attacks in the opening minutes, dodging into the box and smashing a shot into the far netting to earn a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.

Orlando Pride star Marta badgered the right side of the American defense from whistle to whistle. With support from Marta and Ludmila, Debinha tore up the U.S. midfield in transition, putting the Americans back on their heels.

Left back Crystal Dunn was forced to track across the field at full speed several times, sliding through the box to break up passes and shots at the last minute.

Brazil offered the most intense test for striker Alex Morgan since her absence from the team during her pregnancy. Morgan led the American attack at the point of the team’s forward line for 70 minutes, serving passes and taking several shots on goal.

It was Morgan’s first start since the birth of her daughter, Charlie.

The Americans’ pace diminished in the final third of the match when Morgan and Press exited the match to make way for Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe. The Brazilians continued to pummel the box, with Marta nearly connecting with Debinha for the equalizing goal in the 82nd minute.

But Rapinoe sealed the victory for the U.S. in the 89th minute, banging in a cross from point blank range in the box to clinch the 2-0 lead.

Before the match, the entire roster — starters and bench players alike, including Rapinoe — stood unified for the national anthem. Some players on the U.S. women’s national team have knelt for the anthem ahead of every match since the summer’s protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

The win advanced the Americans to the top of the SheBelieves Cup table as the only undefeated team in the tournament.

The U.S. will play its final match of the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday against Argentina. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on FS1 and TUDN.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.