After a lackluster performance against Australia in its first Tournament of Nations match, the United States Women’s National Team faced off against Brazil, a team that drew 1-1 with Japan in its first match. While much of the game was a repeat of the first—with poor possession and a missing midfield for the U.S.—the team managed to come from behind and earn a 4-3 win in the waning minutes.
Seattle Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe was the wizard behind all four U.S. goals, assisting on two, scoring one, and starting the attack on the game-winning goal.
Jill Ellis continued her pseudo lineup experimentation for this match, starting Becky Sauerbrunn as holding midfielder, and pinching left back Casey Short in as centerback alongside Abby Dahlkemper. Taylor Smith repeated as right back, while Kelley O’Hara was the starting left back. The defense was on its heels early, and Brazil took advantage of it. An early shot from Houston Dash midfielder Andressinha was well taken, but looked to be an easy save for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. She bobbled it, however, and the ball slid over her head and in the goal in just the second minute.
The U.S. were fortunate to equalize just 16 minutes later. Megan Rapinoe found some space on the left, and instead of pushing a hopeless ball into the box, she dropped a simple pass back to Sam Mewis just outside the 18-yard box. Mewis’ shot deflected off a Brazil defender and got around Brazil goalkeeper Barbara, tying the game in the 18’.
The U.S. struggled for the rest of the first half, but managed to keep the score even heading into halftime. Rapinoe looked like the team’s best player, while the midfield trio of Carli Lloyd, Sam Mewis, and Sauerbrunn struggled to help the team keep the ball. Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn, who started up front with Rapinoe, also couldn’t get many quality looks on goal.
The second half started just like the first ended, with the U.S. chasing the ball. Mallory Pugh subbed on for an injured Crystal Dunn in the 53’ and had two great opportunities that she’ll certainly want back. The first came from a Rapinoe cross in the 60th minute, placed perfectly across the face of the goal, which Pugh pushed over the bar. The second came in the 69th minute, when she had a wide-open Pinoe on a breakaway, but opted for a shot from a difficult angle that was saved.
Brazil scored in the 63’ off some horrible corner kick defending by the United States. Marta’s kick fell to the back post, where both O’Hara and Mewis were caught sleeping. Defender Bruna Benites shin-kicked it into the back of the net. Andressinha scored her second goal in the 78’ off a beautiful free kick, putting Brazil up 3-1 with just 12 minutes left to play.
Going behind was apparently the spark the U.S. needed, and the team managed to find three goals in just nine minutes. The first came from Christen Press, who subbed on in the 57th minute. Rapinoe sent a perfect through ball to Press in the 80th minute, who turned the ball back to her right foot and fired it into the back of the net.
Just five minutes later, Press sent a looping cross to Rapinoe, who trapped it in the box and fired a shot near post that bounced off the goalkeeper and in. She barely had an angle, and had no business trapping the ball that perfectly, but Reign FC fans know by now that Rapinoe can do just about anything right now.
Rapinoe’s goal was the equalizer for the U.S., and the game-winning goal came thanks to another play from the Reign FC forward. Rapinoe got the ball wide on the right, held it for an overlapping O’Hara before sending it to her in space. O’Hara then fed the ball into the box, and when it was bouncing around loose, Julie Ertz pounced on it and powered a shot into the back of the net, finishing the game at 4-3 in the 89th minute.
The positive for the U.S. is the three points, but the team struggled with many of the same things it experienced in its first match: uncharacteristically poor clearances out of the back, an inability to play the ball through the midfield, and some surprisingly bad decisions by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Reign FC fans can feel optimistic, however. Rapinoe continued her fantastic form and powered the U.S. to victory against Brazil. The fact that she played two back-to-back matches should mean that she rests for most of the final game against Japan, which takes place just two days before Seattle plays the North Carolina Courage. Having a well-rested and in-form Rapinoe might just be what Reign FC needs to move up the NWSL table.
That is, as long as the U.S. doesn’t need her more on August 3, when the U.S. plays its final match in the Tournament of Nations against Japan. The match kicks off at 7 PM PT and airs on ESPN2.