Jill Ellis continued to rotate new players in her roster in the sixth game of the USWNT World Cup Victory Tour. This time she chose to start newcomer Emily Sonnett and returned Lindsey Horan to the lineup. Sonnett was paired with Becky Sauerbrunn at center back and Horan sat beneath Alex Morgan.
Of note, this was also the farewell game for Lori Chalupny and Lauren Holiday. Holiday's departure was highly emotional, breaking up a longtime partnership with Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath. It was perhaps different for Chalupny, who seemed a longshot to return to the team despite storied national team service due to receiving one concussion too many for USSF to feel comfortable inviting her back. But Chalupny got cleared by several doctors and ended up going to the World Cup, earning a a ride into the sunset after years of being shut out of the national team.
Brazil came out strong early, but in a reversal of their last meeting, the United States was on the board first, with Alex Morgan scoring in the 9'. Tobin Heath collected a long ball and positioned it nicely for Alex Morgan to break free of her defenders, run on, ride past a scrambling goalkeeper, and score at an angle on an open net.
Brazil pushed back for a while, including a dangerous moment in the 24' when Cristiane ran into the box and nearly tapped in a cross. But for Becky Sauerbrunn somehow blocking the shot on the run, Brazil would have found the equalizer.
Brazil also had several shots bounce off the crossbar, while the United States persisted in trying to send balls over the top for Alex Morgan or Crystal Dunn to little effect.
The game slowed down a bit near the end of the half, with Brazil patiently holding through the midfield while they probed for an opening. Finally Marta carried a ball through the mid and sent a lovely ball forward for Cristiane, who cut back on her defenders in the box and finished definitively past Hope Solo to tie things at 1-1.
Crystal Dunn answered almost immediately at the other end of the field. The United States finally sent in service from wide, Lindsey Horan headed it down right in front of the goal, and Dunn pounced, sending it through traffic to bring back the US lead. Teams went into the half 2-1.
The second half wasn't as dynamic for the United States. Brazil once again came out hot to trot, looking to equalize, while the US struggled to work the ball out of their defensive third. One bright spot was Stephanie McCaffrey, who entered at the half for Tobin Heath in her debut for the full national team. McCaffrey immediately had an impact, relentlessly driving forward along the right and sending in a handful of dangerous crosses.
Carli Lloyd also entered the game, subbing in for Lauren Holiday in the 56'. Lloyd attempted to carry the ball through the mid but too many of her passes went awry, yielding turnovers and more work for the defense to clear the box.
Some dynamism returned late in the half at the end of regulation, as McCaffrey jumpstarted a forward push with a ball to Alex Morgan, who found a wide open Megan Rapinoe on the switch. Rapinoe tried to center it for Amy Rodriguez, but the ball skittered loose in the box, where an onrushing Morgan tried to finish it but sent it over.
Soon after, Rapinoe sent in a cross from the left that found McCaffrey back post. She finished with a one-time touch to bounce the ball in, earning a goal in her first cap and ending the game at 3-1 in full time.
Overall the United States looked disjointed and haphazard all over the field (except for wherever Becky Sauerbrunn was). Sonnett didn't have her best day, but considering this was her first cap and she was asked to keep up with an organized and determined Brazil, including Marta and Cristiane, things could have gone much worse.
On the flipside, McCaffrey was a bright point of attack, finding width and creating dangerous opportunities in the box. While still not finishing to her own high standards, Alex Morgan was all over the attack and showed some of her old moxie in the way she used her speed to beat her defenders. And this game saw first caps for three players in Sonnett, McCaffrey, and Gina Lewandowski. That the team was able to assemble a win against this Brazil side after being on vacation and rotating in a lot of new faces is perhaps an indicator that, despite their struggles, they'll actually be fine come time for Olympic qualifiers.
Starting XI: Hope Solo, Lori Chalupny (Meghan Klingenberg, 20'), Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett, Ali Krieger (Gina Lewandowski, 73'), Lauren Holiday (Carli Lloyd, 56'), Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan (Amy Rodriguez, 80'), Tobin Heath (Stephanie McCaffrey, 46'), Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn (Megan Rapinoe, 60')