Despite the team making the tournament final, US fans were not high on confidence coming into today's USWNT match against France. The Yanks' group opponents in this year's edition were nowhere near the strength of the group that gave them a 7th place finish in last year's tournament, ultimately costing then-head coach Tom Sermanni his job. And despite the easier group, the US did barely enough to take top position, with results that included a dour scoreless draw with Iceland and a 1-goal comeback win over Norway. And today in the final they faced France, the same team that handily beat the US 2-0 in February to trigger the current crisis of confidence.
But the verve and deadly possession game that France displayed at home last month was nowhere to be found today. The US was able to disrupt France's possession with much better flank play (notably with Ali Krieger starting at right back) and tight defense. The US still showed a frustrating dependence on the long ball, looking to boot 40 yard balls forward at every opportunity for Alex Morgan to run onto, but an up and down physical game suited the Americans and they looked like the better team throughout.
The Reign's Hope Solo started the game in net and looked confident, both in making what few saves she had to make and in organizing the defense. Both Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux started the game on the bench but came in late in the second half.
The US lead came early on a set piece off the unmarked head of central defender Julie Johnston, who's one of the few newcomers who looks to have a shot to make the World Cup roster. Then late in the first half a slaloming individual run from Christen Press tore through a reserve French defense and resulted in the second US goal.
In the second half, the US was only significantly tested once — when a French attacker was pulled down in the box in the 80th minute to earn a penalty. A France goal would have cut the lead to one and set up a tense end of the match. But Solo demonstrated why she's the team's #1 keeper (and the world #1 keeper) with the save:
The win earned the team their record 10th Algarve Cup title and showed hints of the usual US dominance against their toughest remaining opponent in the lead-up to the World Cup. A friendly home tour against teams outside the world top 15 awaits the national team. But first the players will disperse to take a break and then join their club teams. Solo, Rapinoe, and Leroux are expected to be back training with the Reign in the first week of April.