Starting XI: Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Whitney Engen, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Samantha Mewis, Morgan Brian, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd (c), Crystal Dunn; Alex Morgan
There were some shakeups to the USWNT roster going into the game against Germany, their third and final test in the She Believes Cup.
Returning to the back line was Ali Krieger, as well as Whitney Engen with her first start in a long time. Samantha Mewis took Lindsey Horan's place in deep midfield and Christen Press and Crystal Dunn both got starts, albeit still in service to Alex Morgan as the highest striker. Missing from the lineup was Mallory Pugh, who had seemingly earned time against top-class opposition like Germany - but perhaps head coach Jill Ellis felt that she'd mostly seen what she needed to of Pugh against England and France. More on that later.
The first half was slightly off-kilter as the United States' struggle to find a rhythm was compounded by a knobbly pitch. Germany's intense attack left lots of space in the midfield for Carli Lloyd to exploit and indeed, several times Morgan Brian found Lloyd with plenty of time to carry the ball and look for attackers. But the frontline trio of Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Crystal Dunn couldn't quite capitalize on their opportunities for long minutes and Germany ended up going on the scoreboard first.
In the 29' Germany picked up a turnover and Anja Mittag took her chance from distance despite being surrounded by three defenders. Mittag's low hard shot skipped on the surface and slipped just inside the post, leaving Hope Solo visibly displeased with her back line.
Germany continued to have the better of the attack for a little while longer, but then in the 35' Meghan Klingenberg fought hard for possession and was able to pop a ball over the German back line for Morgan. Morgan got to the ball, touched it into space around her defender, and volleyed decisively into the netting. It was a classic Alex Morgan goal the likes of which fans haven't seen in some time, and against top opposition like Germany seemingly in direct rebuke of her recent scoring woes.
Samantha Mewis scored the game winner in the 41', winning the ball in the midfield and taking her chances with an outside shot that deflected just weirdly enough to slip past German GK Almuth Schult. Those three goals would be all that were scored during the game. Teams went into the second half at 2-1 and there the scoreline stayed.
The US continued to look mostly disjointed, with very little fluidity to their attack. But on the bright side, Alex Morgan was much more involved in the game than she was against France, both in terms of service received and service provided. Morgan, Press, and Dunn all fed each other at times and there were several good pushes forward that just needed a finishing touch.
Morgan Brian was also her usual reliable self, creating turnovers and working the ball out of pressure from deep. Samantha Mewis had a decent game on top of her goal, and Whitney Engen settled some early nerves to make a good case as an alternate CB for the Olympics.
One oddity was Ellis' substitutions - against France she might as well as not have used subs at all, bringing in players with five minutes of regulation remaining. Against Germany, she subbed out players who had hardly gotten time all tournament long and were surely in need of further evaluation. Samantha Mewis came out in the 60' for Lindsey Horan and Press and Dunn both came out in the 61' for Mallory Pugh and Tobin Heath. It would have been interesting to see Press, Dunn, and Morgan all work together for a full 90 but it was not to be.
More filling in the confusion donut: Kelley O'Hara came in in the 79' for Ali Krieger and Julie Johnston was a stoppage time sub for Meghan Klingenberg. O'Hara has been Ellis' preferred starter at right back throughout the She Believes tournament, leading some to speculate that usual RB Ali Krieger has been injured. But Krieger looked fine in her 79 minutes of playing time, and O'Hara had just had 2 tough games in a row, so why not look at Krieger for a full 90?
The US closed out the game on a more defensive note, making a few forays forward and lasting through the last waves of German attacking. But for Mewis' long-range strike, the game could have ended in a tie or even skewed towards the Germans. But it didn't, and such is the nature of sports. The US was the ultimate winner of the She Believes Cup, with Germany, England, and France lining up after them respectively.
The United States will next face Colombia in a two-game series in early April, followed up by hosting old rival Japan. We'll see if Ellis continues to experiment, or instead takes these final pre-Olympic games as a chance to settle her final roster and get her preferred starting XI to gel.