It was a big year for the United States national team. They accomplished their most pressing goal which was to qualify for the World Cup, but also emerged victorious in all three tournaments they entered—the SheBelieves Cup, Tournament of Nations, and Concacaf Women’s Championship. And when the year ended and the numbers were crunched there was a big 0 in the loss column the team could pound its chest over. (This is in contrast to 2016 when an undefeated season included their ill-fated draw-penalty-loss to Sweden in the Olympics.)
The closest the U.S. came to losing was July 29 in Hartford, the middle match of the Tournament of Nations. Facing an Australia side that had beat them soundly a year earlier, the U.S. went down 1-0 midway through the opening half when a rare Becky Sauerbrunn mistake led to an Australia counterattack and a goal by Chloe Logarzo.
The U.S. were forced to switch to rally mode. Though they were usually getting the better of the play from the Matildas the final piece of the puzzle remained elusive. As the first half turned to the second and the minutes ticked away, rally mode turned into desperation mode. Australia were under the gun but mostly looked to be in control with their defending and clearances.
Finally, in the last minute before stoppage time the U.S. earned a corner kick. By her own admission it had been a dreadful day taking corners and set pieces for Megan Rapinoe, but she never thought of not taking this one which could rescue the United States.
The clock read 89:55 when Rapinoe delivered her best corner kick of the day, an in-swinger headed toward a sea of humanity just inside the six-yard box at the far post. Australia goalkeeper Lydia Williams looked up as if to have a bead on it but there were too many players in her path. Still it looked like a ball that would be either cleared or hit poorly by an attacking player.
The clock read 89:58 when Lindsey Horan threaded her way between opponents and teammates to get herself in the exact right spot at the exact right time. The replay looks as if she barely made contact, but Horan’s glancing header was redirected perfectly and beat Williams inside the near post to give the U.S. the long-awaited equalizer. There was barely an inch to give on either side or the shot would have been saved or hit the post.
The match ended 1-1. Four days later, Australia beat Japan 2-0 meaning the U.S. needed to win by at least two goals over Brazil to take the trophy. Again the U.S. fell behind early, this time to a Tierna Davidson own goal, but the rally against Brazil was much quicker and much more definitive. Rose Lavelle equalized before halftime and Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath scored in an eight-minute span for the decisive goals. Alex Morgan added another for a 4-1 victory.
The United States locked in a daunting 2019 schedule to prepare for the World Cup. The year will begin with no losses since that July 2017 Tournament of Nations setback to Australia.
READ MORE: All XI Moments of 2018
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