USWNT beats Brazil 2-1 to win SheBelieves Cup: 3 takeaways

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The U.S. women’s national team’s perfect start to a potentially historic 2023 continued with a 2-1 win over Brazil on Wednesday, a victory that increased their record to 5-0 this year and gave the USWNT SheBelieves Cup title for sixth time in eight. try

Alex Morgan opened the scoring in first-half injury time and teammate Mallory Swanson doubled the hosts’ lead with just under 30 minutes remaining. The visitors pulled one back against the run of play with about 10 minutes remaining to make it interesting, the first goal the USA has conceded this year.

The latter’s goal did not add much luster to Wednesday’s victory. It was still an impressive showing from the Americans, who now have just three more games before this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. They will try to become the first team, men’s or women’s, to win three consecutive world championships when they get there.

USA saves the best for last

The Americans beat Canada, the reigning Olympic champions and FIFA’s sixth-ranked team, 2-0 last week to open the SheBelieves Cup. They beat Japan, another elite foe, 1-0 on Sunday.

Wednesday’s win was still easily the U.S.’s most complete performance of 2023, even without the clean sheet. No. 9 Brazil went toe-to-toe with the home team for the first 45 minutes in Frisco before Morgan broke the deadlock with a superb left-footed shot past Brazil goalkeeper Lorena.

Lindsey Horan started the play with a neat pass to Swanson, whose effort was blocked by Lauren. But Morgan pounced on the loose ball, took a touch and finished with aplomb.

Swanson, meanwhile, continued his blistering form to start the year. Rose Lavelle set up her tally in the 63rd minute with a surging run through the middle of the pitch before teeing up Swanson, who calmly slotted home her side’s seventh goal of 2023.

The play of Morgan, Swanson is a very encouraging sign

Heading into 2023, there were legitimate questions about who would start as America’s No. 1. Would Morgan, who will turn 34 just before the World Cup, still be a surefire starter for the U.S. three years after having her first child? If so, who would partner with her up front with projected starters Sophia Smith and Catarina Macario missing significant time with injuries?

The answers are absolutely and Swanson, who now has control of one of the three forward spots. That takes a lot of pressure off Smith, who is back training with the NWSL champion Portland Thorns and is expected to return in time for his first World Cup, and Macario, who may have to fill a more limited role a year after breaking it. ACL last spring.

With one or two exceptions, this is the American World Cup lineup

After rotating his starting 11 through the first two games of the tournament, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski went with what would be his best lineup if the World Cup started today.

Lavelle, the most outstanding American star at France 2019, returned to his usual playing spot behind the front line after missing the Canada and Japan games due to what US Soccer said was “a minor injury.” Center Naomi Girma, who sat out Canada before returning on Sunday, kept her spot to partner with captain Becky Sauerbrunn, one of six players Andonovski rotated back into. Morgan, Swanson, Horan and right back Emily Fox were the only Americans to start. the three contests.

Andonovski’s decisions are telling. There is now a level of clarity in goal (Alyssa Naeher over Casey Murphy), on the wing (Fox over Sofia Huerta with Crystal Dunn over Alana Cook on the left) and especially in defensive midfield, where Andi Sullivan looks to l has consolidated position above Kristie Mewis and Taylor Korniek. Sullivan would replace destroyer Julie Ertz, who will miss the trip to Australia and New Zealand this summer after becoming a mother last year.

There are still two games left for Andonovski to announce her 23-woman World Cup roster; The USA will reportedly play a doubleheader against the Republic of Ireland in April and another in July just before the flight Down Under. There’s still time for injury or a dip in form to force an adjustment, and some rotation will be needed in the main event.

But overall, these are the women who will lead the Americans’ title defense. Five games into 2023, they are more than ready for the challenge.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports, and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at several FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.

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