The SheBelieves Cup did not live up to the expectations of women’s soccer fans this year as it did in 2016. A poor showing on offense and a struggling defense led by an experimental three back formation contributed to two loses in three games.
In 2016 the United States Women’s National team did not lose a single game. I would argue that every member of the team would disagree with that. FIFA does not consider shootout decisions as losses, but instead counts them as draws in the record books. Regardless the early exit for the USWNT in the Olympic games, losing to Sweden, was indeed a loss.
Despite the Olympic loss, coming into the SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. was still ranked number one in the world. The second annual, nine game tournament features four top ranked teams, England, France, Germany and of course the United States. The USWNT won the cup in its inaugural year last March coming off the World Cup victory. Every indication was that they would repeat this year as champions.
Jill Ellis, the USWNT head coach, talked about using these games against top opponents as a gauge to see what players and formations would work in preparation for the 2019 World Cup. Ellis had been playing with the lineup and formation during the last few matches of 2016.
The first game against Germany was a narrow, 1-0, victory. The second game against England saw a late match goal, giving the U.S. their first loss and with the result the possibility of missing out on defending the title. The final game, against France, turned out to be the deciding game of the tournament, with England losing earlier in the day to Germany. The USWNT team needed a win to secure the cup, France needed a tie or victory to win the first major tournament in the team’s history.
France came out fast and strong and scored in the eighth minute, then scored again a minute later. The U.S. looked out of sorts the entire game and were unable to get a single ball to find the back of the net. France scored a third goal in the second half and ran away with a 3-0 victory and looked every bit the deserving winner.
The USWNT had not lost two games in a row since they lost to Sweden and then Denmark in the Algarve Cup in 2012 under Tom Sermanni.
The question is why are the “Gals” who won the World Cup just two years ago struggling so much? Is the influx of youth causing growing pains? Are the new formations, with players getting time in different positions taking a bit more time to adjust than expected?
Coming Soon: I will share my observations on the teams performance with a few pros and cons, so stay tuned and leave your thoughts in the comments…