The first leg of the SheBelieves Cup took place in Columbus on Thursday evening at MAPFRE Stadium. Playing host to the Senior Women’s National Teams of the United States, Germany, England and France, Ohio saw a 1-0 U.S. victory over Germany in the late match of the night.
The United States struck first and last in the 17th minute as forward Megan Rapinoe streaked down the left side and put a ball between the legs of German goalkeeper Almuth Schult and into the back of the net for the 1-0 score. Forward Alex Morgan’s header provided an assist to Rapinoe.
“I tried to just assume Alex was going to win it,” Rapinoe said. “I’m either going to be in a good position or a bad position if she wins it or loses it. I just took a little risk on that and I was able to outrun someone [laughs]. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Rapinoe figured there would be more goals in the match against the second-ranked German team. Bringing a shootout mentality to a game where goals ended up being scarce proved valuable for the top-ranked USWNT. Thursday’s match was the fourth in a row between the two teams that ended in a score of 1-0.
“You have the one and two teams in the world, so there was never going to be much in it,” U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis said. “I think the goal came at a good moment. But, you go into these games and you play Germany and it’s rarely more than a one goal game either way.”
Ellis believed that her team played its best during a stretch in the second half. The U.S. kept its foot on the pedal in terms of attack while in the driver’s seat and playing against the wind and a German team that wouldn’t go away.
The U.S. doubled Germany in terms of shots and shots on target in the match. Fourteen shots and four on goal came for the USWNT compared to seven and two for Germany, respectively, despite the owning a 57 percent share of the possession battle.
A rainy day in Columbus continued into the night of international soccer and was accompanied by the cold and wind once the USWNT and Germany kicked off.
“It was miserable,” Rapinoe said. “The wind was everywhere, and it was really cold and kind of sideways rain. I honestly thought we could’ve done a little bit better of a job keeping the ball on the floor and trying to move it a little bit more, but it was pretty nasty out there today. Kind of one of those games you sort of hunker down and get away with the win.”
Ellis emphasized postgame that a match like this could not be replicated and it was valuable for the experience of her team, as grueling as it may have been. She talked with her team about the potential for rough conditions earlier in the day and elected to play with the win at their backs for the first half. That decision proved crucial to Rapinoe’s goal and an early three points in SheBelieves.
Following the first leg, the U.S. sits in second place in terms of points in the SheBelieves Cup. A tiebreaker by way of goal differential gives preference to England, who dominated France by a score of 4-1 earlier in the day.
The United States, England, Germany and France will continue the SheBelieves Cup in the coming days as the remaining legs take place on March 4 and 7 in Harrison, NJ and Orlando, FL, respectively.