SEATTLE — The Tournament of Nations kicked off on Thursday at CenturyLink Field, first between Japan and Brazil, then the USA and Australia. Of interest to all USWNT fans, but especially those that follow the Seattle Reign, leading NWSL scorer and Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe started for the USA on the left flank. Reign fans will also be familiar with Australia and Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr, one of the most promising young players in the NWSL. Tameka Butt was the only scorer in the match. Her goal gave Australia their historic win.
Unsurprisingly, Rapinoe was involved from the very first minute, using her incredible skill to put a defender on her feet en route to kicking off a chance for the USA. She combined well with her teammates to put a cross into the edge of the box minutes later, but it was cleared by the defense. Pinoe involved her teammates as much as possible, but the USA’s best early chances came when the Reign midfielder went for it solo. Some interchange with Press gave her a great chance, turning the defender inside out and taking a low shot that was just blocked by goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
The USWNT had by far the best early chances, often led by Pinoe, but their opponents final got a foot in the game around the 15th minute or so and evened the game out. Most of Australia’s chances seemed to be due to defensive lapses, but American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was stellar in timing her charges off her line to clear or snuff them out.
With only a shot on goal each, neither side breaks the first half deadlock in the first 45 minutes. The second half kicked off with no substitutes for either side, and the USA were again off to the races and earned two corner kicks in the first three minutes. Pinoe took both, and nearly created something with the rebound of her first one, though the second was whistled for an offensive foul (handball?) in the box. The USA had another shot tipped just wide minutes after, giving Pinoe another corner.
Australia dominated much of the second half, with the USA getting so few real chances after their early flurry. Things finally culminated in a goal for Australia in the 67th minute after some failed clearances by the US allowed Tameka Butt to pounce on a bouncing ball in the box and slip it past Naeher.
The goal had the Americans startled and coach Jill Ellis started sending substitutes in in pairs. Veterans Kelley O’Hara, Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn, Morgan Brian, and Alex Morgan all made it onto the pitch in the second half in an effort to try and get the USA on the board. Samantha Mewis took a bad kick to the nose and looked to be streaming blood, but instead of substitute her the coaching staff plugged her nose with cotton and kept her on the pitch for the full 90. Morgan and Dunn had dangerous opportunities, but the former hit the side netting after she got on the end of a Pinoe through ball and the latter had her shot pushed wide by Williams.