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England defeats USA 1-0 despite improved US effort

Even after fixing many of their midfield problems from the Germany game, the US lost last-minute to an exultant England side.

2017 SheBelieves Cup - United States v England Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Starting XI: Ashlyn Harris, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger, Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh

The United States took on England in their second game of the SheBelieves Cup after a slightly frustrating but nevertheless hard-earned 1-0 win against Germany. Things were flipped for this game: despite deserving a good result against England, the United States fell to a late dagger.

Things started out at a high tempo for both sides, the US pushing high as dictated by their formation. The team was lively all through the midfield and the flanks, with Samantha Mewis improving quite a lot over her performance against Germany. She and Lindsey Horan were dominant in the midfield for most of their time on the pitch, working on both sides of the ball. Mewis hit some great balls to set up forward movement through the middle and along both flanks. She not only kept her head up on the attack, but forced several good turnovers to regain control of the midfield.

Another midfield standout was Rose Lavelle in her WNT debut. Lavelle was mesmerizing in the first half, using deft ball control and good off the ball movement to create trouble for England on both the left and the right. She almost had a goal in her first cap in the 19’ when she cracked a shot from short range that England GK Siobhan Chamberlain blocked with a massive reaction save.

Still the US kept pushing with several crosses into the box and a calm coherence in the middle, whether from pressure on England to regain possession or holding the ball well to give the offense time to shift forward as one. Several times Mallory Pugh held up play while help arrived, allowing them to press around the box in numbers.

England pressed back plenty of times though, and in the 32’ Ashlyn Harris came up with a massive reaction save of her own on a point-blank blast by Nikita Parris.

That kept it 0-0 for the rest of the first half while the US looked for ways into the England box. Lavelle formed an excellent passing triangle with Pugh and Lindsey Horan on the right side and Mewis looked for some penetrating passes through the back line, but the finishing was not quite there.

Lavelle went back to the left side in the second half, switching Crystal Dunn over to the right. England had some bursts of pressure that required sharp defending from Sauerbrunn and Krieger; as the game wore on, tests on Sauerbrunn’s side waned and England began probing along Krieger’s side more often, grabbing a little more territory each time. Lavelle continued to work hard, showing off not just her footwork, but her speed as she beat Jordan Nobbs in the 53’ and took the ball all the way into the England 18 from midfield.

Alex Morgan looked a little frustrated near the end of her time on the pitch, even though she was dropping in an effort to chip in to the attack. She got subbed in the 63’ for Christen Press, while Dunn also came out for Lynn Williams. Morgan may still be working her way back to full 90s, and the Press/Williams double sub felt planned. They went into the front two and Mal Pugh shifted to right wingback.

Now England turned up the pressure again, requiring some recoveries from the defense to block crosses and for the midfield to defend hard in front of the back line. Play halted in the 68’ when Carli Lloyd tussled with Jordan Nobbs; in the process, Nobbs took a hard ball to the face and collapsed with a very bloody nose. Lloyd got a yellow card for the contact.

With Williams in the game, a few long balls began going over the top, and a few times it looked like Williams might be able to pounce, but the US was more dangerous when they continued to work the ball through the lines and make sure to keep possession. Lavelle sent a sitter across the face of an empty goal in the 73’, but it looked as though none of her teammates expected the ball and the opportunity went wasted.

More subs came in the 75’ with Tobin Heath in for Carli Lloyd, Allie Long in for Sam Mewis, and Morgan Brian in for Lindsey Horan. Heath, Long, Brian, and Pugh made four in the midfield with Lavelle pushing up to CAM behind the two forwards. This is Lavelle’s more natural attacking position as opposed to pushing her left, though Lavelle acquitted herself admirably in an unfamiliar position in her very first cap in front of a sold out crowd. The subs did seem to discombobulate the team a little bit as they attempted to adjust on the fly, and the midfield lost a little of its coherence.

England once again surged late in the game, with England sub Jill Scott exploiting huge spaces left behind after Julie Johnston missed a tackle. Johnston had to work hard to get back and defend on Scott, eventually winning back the ball, although after working their way down to the attacking third, Long received the ball looking as though she had no plan for it and lost possession.

Now with England subs Ellen White and Jodie Taylor sparking their offense, they pushed harder into the box, eventually earning a goal in the 89’. Lucy Bronze rattled the crossbar with a long-range strike, two defenders collided in front of a disoriented Harris, and Ellen White hammered home the dagger. It was an unfortunate result after the US pulled together so well in the midfield and Harris had some good stops earlier in the game. England made a couple of late-game subs that helped run down stoppage and eventually earned a 1-0 victory - surely a joy for them after losing last minute 2-1 to France in their first game of the tournament.

As for the United States, they really should have gotten on the board several times. While the midfield perked up, with much improved performances from Mewis and Horan and a fantastic debut for Lavelle, the forwards were all lacking to some degree. Certainly some credit goes to Chamberlain for her massive save and several scrambles to smother the ball, but the US needed to finish and didn’t. Carli Lloyd also didn’t get as stuck in as she needed to be, and it might be worth it to see Lavelle play a full 90 in her CAM role as opposed to switching from wing to wing to middle.

“I thought she did great,” Ellis said of Lavelle’s first cap. “Five minutes of nerves and then she settled into that game and she was one of the best players in the park....” Ellis said she values Lavelle as a “natural lefty,” but would not commit at this early juncture to a more permanent position. “We’ll see in terms of where she ends up,” said Ellis.

As for the continued three-back experiment, the Krieger - Johnston - Sauerbrunn line had its good moments, although Krieger waned a bit near the end. But they seemed fairly stable and connected good short balls forward through Mewis without getting overrun too much.

It’s unfair that the US should get a result in spite of themselves against Germany, then go scoreless against England despite fixing many of their problems. But that’s sports, and there’s an entire game left to play against France.

The United States will take on France on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 PM ET at RFK Stadium. The game will air live on FS1.