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Tournament of Nations: USA manages to hold out for 1-1 draw against strong Australia

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Megan Rapinoe kept trying to throw ideas at the wall to see what would stick and eventually one did.

2018 Tournament Of Nations: Australia v United States Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Emily Sonnett, Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath

The United States seemed to find a scrappy, energetic start in their second Tournament of Nations game facing Australia, but for the first half they were lacking the rhythm that could put all that energy to good use.

Australia pushed at Crystal Dunn at left back early, testing her vulnerability. Dunn burst out early but grew more cautious as the half went on, limiting her ability to put in crosses but also limiting Australia’s ability to get in behind. But with Tobin Heath drifting around by herself on the right, the US struggled to find the width to avoid Australia’s deadly fast midfield.

The US tried to look for Alex Morgan with a few threaded balls but Australia either had her passing channels covered or the passes and Morgan’s runs weren’t timed to sync up. Morgan played a lovely slipped ball in the 17’ for Rapinoe, but she was at a tough angle and shot wide.

Australia put a little caution into the United States in the 22’ as everyone but Abby Dahlkemper pushed high for a corner kick. Australia broke out quickly, with Lisa De Vanna blazing a Sonic run through the middle and feeding Chloe Logarzo, who put a nice finish past Naeher to make it 1-0.

The US midfield continued to struggle with De Vanna, too flat in places and too uncertain in others. Ertz seemed unable to commit to protecting the back line or stepping higher; either she exposed her defenders or watched as Horan and Brian - particularly Brian - couldn’t move the ball out of pressure. Brian did have her moments here and there, where she looked calmly composed and kept her head up to find the spaces around her, but it wasn’t consistent enough to be a difference maker for this game.

Horan made several good moves, driving the ball across the box or making a run from deep to try and pull Australia away from Morgan and Rapinoe, but Australia stayed composed and batted the ball back down the field each time. The last decent chance of the half came from Rapinoe, one of the few players in the first half who looked like she had any ideas, as she turned, juked, and tried to skip in a long range ball, but her shot was smothered by Lydia Williams and the US went into halftime down by one.

The second half started off with the same energy from the United States, but with more of that rhythm they were lacking. Morgan and Rapinoe found some nice combinations around the box and Rapinoe’s ball from the endline in the 50’ was inches off from providing Morgan with a nice, fat header right in front of goal. But Australia continued to battle the United States for every ball, and in the 57’ another Morgan - Rapinoe collab that dropped a lay off for Horan just outside the box went wasted as Horan whiffed the shot.

Still, the tension clearly shifted in the US’ favor within the first 10 minutes of the half, the United States looking looser and Australia a little bit more rigid. You could see it in Dunn once again engaging high on the left side, and then Ertz making a big run through the middle trying to play Rapinoe in.

Still, if Rapinoe was an idea-generating machine in open play, her set piece delivery was lacking, and free kicks and corner kicks went unused. The US tried to set up a rhythm change much the way they did against Japan with a sub in the 63’, McCall Zerboni coming on for Brian. Australia were less susceptible to it though, and the team was still looking for brighter, sharper movement towards the box. The US hoped they could get it with a sub in the 74’ with Christen Press coming on for Tobin Heath. Heath had been somewhat hamstrung by the lack of looks from her teammates, lingering in space but not being considered a target for a switch of play.

The US made more subs in the 79’, with Casey Short and Rose Lavelle on for Sonnett and Dahlkemper. Dunn switched right so Short could go in at left back and Ertz dropped into the back line to keep it at four while Lavelle drifted left in the midfield. Lavelle didn’t get a lot of looks at the ball, but she looked fairly mobile, and did have a smart moment in the last seconds of the game with a cheeky nutmeg.

The last US sub was in the 87’ as Carli Lloyd came on for Dunn and the US moved to three in the back and four in the forward line with Lloyd by Morgan. Passes were getting sloppy and it looked like time might run out, but Rapinoe finally found her accuracy on a 90’ corner kick that found Lindsey Horan’s head to make it 1-1.

Rapinoe made several more last-ditch efforts as stoppage counted down, squeaking crosses in. But there would be no game winner and the United States had to be content with a salvaged draw, although in the post-game press conference Jill Ellis was fairly exuberant about her team’s performance - not entirely unfair given the pressure all game long from Australia. Ellis called it a “total team performance” and said “The will to get it done is just part of our mentality.” She was complimentary of Lindsey Horan and her work in building out play from the back, winning balls in the air, and rotating centrally to wide and back.

Next up for the United States, the last game of the tournament as they face Brazil on August 2 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois.