Sport USWNT Responds to Sweden Draw With Emphatic Win vs. France

01:25  14 april  2021
01:25  14 april  2021 Source:   si.com

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Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan scored early goals as the U.S. reasserted its dominance to close another camp preparing for the Olympics.

If the U.S. women's national team's draw vs. Sweden on Saturday uncovered some light cracks in the foundation, then Tuesday's response vs. France filled them right up.

Early goals from Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan sent the U.S. on its way to a 2-0 win at Stade Océane, where the Americans' unbeaten streak grew to 39 games in what was one of the final difficult tests prior to this summer's Olympics.

It was at that very stadium in Le Havre where the U.S. last lost, with France taking a 3–1 result in January 2019, but the response that manager Vlatko Andonovski was seeking after an admittedly subpar performance a few days ago was fierce.

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As the U.S. demonstrated throughout its run to the 2019 Women's World Cup title, early goals disrupt even the most well-crafted of game plans, and that was again the case Tuesday. The U.S. piled on early pressure as Morgan drew a penalty after having her foot stepped on as she went for a rebound inside the box. Rapinoe stepped to the spot and converted, scoring a fifth-minute goal vs. France just as she did in the World Cup quarterfinals two years ago.

Morgan then set up Christen Press for a close call before scoring as their roles were reversed. Press spotted Morgan splitting two France defenders, and the latter remained just onside as she took the pass from the Man United forward and fired to the far side to double the U.S. lead inside the opening 20 minutes.

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The pressure continued throughout the first half, as Julie Ertz fired over the bar, and Crystal Dunn was denied a goal by a great save from Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. The goalkeeper was at it again in the 38th minute, when she stopped Rapinoe from scoring her second off a cross from Kelley O'Hara. The goals didn't follow in the second half, but the script wasn't all too different, with France hardly threatening Alyssa Naeher's goal. A teasing cross from Sandy Baltimore in the 80th minute was nearly turned into the U.S. net by Dunn, but it was a relatively clean performance in the back, all things considered.

The result, as impressive as it was against the third-ranked team in the world, comes with some caveats. A number of top-tier French talents were missing, with Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock, Sakina Karchaoui, Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Delphine Cascarino all ruled out following a COVID-19 outbreak at Lyon. Kadidiatou Diani and Baltimore were also among those kept on the bench to start, though the opening front line did include the dynamic Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Eugenie Le Sommer.

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For all of its absences, this was still a France team coming off an impressive 3-1 win over England, and the areas where the U.S. struggled vs. Sweden were addressed. Set pieces, like the one on which the U.S. conceded Sweden's goal, were handled more cleanly—something made easier by the absence of Renard, arguably the world's most prolific aerial threat on set plays—while the unforced errors in possession weren't as plentiful and the effort on 50-50 balls was noticeable.

Most encouraging, perhaps, was the play of Morgan, who asserted herself early and often in her 75 minutes on the field. The U.S. is a more complete and dynamic team when Morgan is at her best, and 11 months after giving birth, Tuesday's performance was her most telling one yet that she is indeed on her way.

More USWNT Coverage:

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  • Carli Lloyd becomes third USWNT player to hit 300 caps

USWNT Returns to Site of Last Loss on Heels of Rare Wake-Up Call .
A date with France will bring back some not-so-fond memories for the USWNT days after an uncharacteristic performance nearly cost the team its unbeaten streak. Most major tournament cycles for the U.S. women's national team follow a familiar script: Play in a number of tune-up friendlies and tournaments. Win handily, for the most part. Endure a close call or defeat that all tout as a valuable and needed learning experience.Three months before the Olympics, and headed to the site of their last defeat, the U.S. women are essentially following that to a T.

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