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Rapinoe goal enough for USWNT win over Germany

Megan Rapinoe's 17th-minute goal lifted the USWNT past Germany, 1-0, in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. (photo copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

One goal was all it took for the United States women’s national team (USWNT) to open their 2018 SheBelieves Cup with a win over Germany. A first-half Megan Rapinoe goal was the difference maker as the two sides battled each other (and the blustery winter conditions) to a 1-0 victory for the hosts. The USWNT are now undefeated in 15 straight matches against the Germans.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis implemented almost the exact same lineup as she did in January against Denmark. Her only change to the squad that defeated the 2017 EUROs runners-up, 5-1, was the injection of Carli Lloyd, once again sporting the captain’s armband, into the midfield in place of Andi Sullivan. Although Lloyd did fine in the midfield and had a dangerous chance on goal in the second half, neither she, nor any other USWNT player save Rapinoe, was able to find her way onto the scoresheet.

The USWNT’s first opportunity on goal came in the opening minutes, when the hosts were awarded a free kick in their attacking half. Rapinoe sent a good ball into the box but was unable to connect with any of her teammates before a foul caused the play to be blown dead. Rapinoe created another set piece opportunity on goal minutes later, sending in a corner kick from the near flag, but her service was too high for Morgan to get her head on. The resulting play ended with Kelley O’Hara sending her shot over the crossbar and into the top netting.

Sara Däbritz nearly put the Germans on the board first when, in the 16th minute, a U.S. defender’s clearance attempt in front of goal landed at her feet, all but gifting the midfielder a choice look on goal. She sent the ball wide of the far post though, and the USWNT were quick to capitalize, scoring on the counter less than a minute later.

The game-winning play started with American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher punting the ball with incredible accuracy to Morgan, whose subtle flick of the ball split the German defense and bounced towards goal. As goalkeeper Almuth Schult came racing off her line, Rapinoe one-timed the ball from the top of the 18, through the keeper’s legs, and into the back of the net for the match’s one and only goal.

Germany came within inches of getting on the board just minutes after that goal but were denied by the woodwork. As the German attack worked the ball towards goal, O’Hara’s defensive slide tackle seemed to send the ball on target, only to deflect off the near post to prevent a goal for the visitors. 

The U.S. nearly doubled their lead in the opening minute of the second half when Schult dove off her line in attempts of collecting the ball. She was unsuccessful though, leaving Lindsey Horan with the ball at her feet in front of an empty goal. The lack of power Horan put into the shot combined with the wind to slow the ball down well before it crossed the goal line, allowing the German defense to easily clear the ball from out in front of goal.

Horan had another opportunity on goal five minutes later when she sent an aerial ball in on goal that had the power and trajectory to go in on its own or be headed in by her teammate. This time, however, Schult took to the air and was able to successfully come down with the ball.

The USWNT’s best opportunity on goal in the second half came in the 57th minute when Lloyd, , with her back on goal, turned and ripped off a shot that was parried away by the German keeper. The rebound sailed out of the reach of Julie Ertz, whose leaping attempt at heading the ball was fruitless, leaving the midfielder sprawled out in front of goal while the oppositions cleared the ball.

As the snowfall increased towards the end of the second half at Mapfre Stadium, so did the fouls, resulting in two yellow cards for the Germans. Despite the increased physicality and attacking presence by the Europeans, the visitors were unable to find an equalizer, suffering their third consecutive loss to the USWNT during the SheBelieves Cup.

The two teams will now travel to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where they will face off on Sunday, March 4. The USWNT opens the second day of SheBelieves Cup match play at noon ET against France (ESPN2), followed by England versus Germany at 3 p.m. ET (ESPN3).

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