England Women got their SheBelieves Cup off to a losing start after being beaten 2-0 by United States Women.
USWNT controlled the game throughout and eventually took the lead just after half-time through Christen Press. It took them a matter of minutes to double that advantage with Carli Lloyd striking, taking the match away from Phil Neville’s side.
But what did we learn from England’s defeat?
1. England’s post-World Cup dip continues
After winning the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, hopes of England going on to World Cup glory – or at least a final – were high. However, they were dashed by the USWNT and England have been suffering since.
Including the semi-final defeat and third-placed playoff loss to Sweden, England have won just two of their past eight games. Two friendlies just before the start of the Women’s Super League season brought a draw with Belgium and defeat to Norway before Brazil emerged victorious at the start of October.
England got their first post-World Cup win against Portugal but it took a fortunate goal from Beth Mead to secure the victory. Germany went on to spoil England’s homecoming at Wembley in November and although the Lionesses would beat Czech Republic, it was another unconvicing victory. The results since the summer have seen some questioning Phil Neville’s credentials for improving England’s chances of success, especially with the country hosting the 2021 European Championships.
— England (@England) March 6, 2020
And the performance in Florida will not have done him any favours. Although this is the USWNT, England seriously struggled to get into the game, rarely making their way into the opposition half in the opening 30 minutes. They were completely outplayed by a team consisting of players who are in pre-season mode compared to England’s large WSL contigent that are mid-season.
USWNT were allowed to get in on England’s goal far too easily, with gaps in defence and the usual vulnerability from crosses – although they did not score via those means. And when going behind to Christen Press’ goal, England looked stunned and their lack of communication allowed Carli Lloyd to peel behind the back line, eventually doubling the lead.
With the way the USWNT are playing, the SheBelieves Cup may not be coming home once more, but now it’s about how Neville can help his team bounce back.
2. New manager same team
Quite a lot has changed since these two sides met last in the 2019 World Cup, but at the same time not much has.
Since beating England and going on to win the World Cup, the United States have seen master coach Jill Ellis step down, Alex Morgan temporarily drop out due to pregnancy and Vlatko Andonovski take charge.
But there has been no blip under Andonovski so far, with the USWNT winning all seven of their games since he took charge, scoring 34 and conceding two – keeping six consecutive clean sheets – as well as winning the Concacaf Olympic qualifying trophy.
And they extended that run to eight with an accomplished display against England. The tournament hosts were frustrated in the first half by fine goalkeeping and a few sloppy finishes but they remained patient, almost knowing they would eventually score such is the confidence.
And when they eventually did take the lead, they didn’t rest, immediately scoring a second to make their control count. As the game went on, it was the USWNT that looked more likely to score and if they continue like this, there’s no stopping them.
3. Lauren Hemp offers hope
Although there won’t be too many positives to take from England’s defeat, one certainly was the performance of Lauren Hemp.
The 19-year-old was handed her first England senior start on Thursday night and was excellent, giving Kelley O’Hara seriously problems down the Lionesses’ left, whether it be with her pace, strength or dribbling.
Hemp was let down slightly, however, by the lack of movement from her teammates sometimes as well as being punished for her strength with fouls awarded for what appeared to be fair challenges. Full of fight and ability, Hemp has a bright future ahead of her and it’s down to the teenager to ensure she makes it hard for Neville to ignore her.
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4. No Alex Morgan, no problem
At the World Cup, Alex Morgan was the main focus for headline makers when he came to goals, finishing as joint-top scorer. But fans may have been wondering how USWNT would cope without her, following the announcement of her pregnancy. The answer is, just fine.
In Morgan’s absence, Christen Press has stepped up to the plate massively, when it mattered too. As USWNT qualified for the Olympics, via the Concacaf tournament, Press scored four goals including one in the semi-final win over Mexico. Her performances earned Press the Golden Ball and she has carried that form into the SheBelieves Cup, opening the scoring with an excellent goal.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) March 6, 2020
Capitalising on poor passing from England, Press received the ball 25-yards out. Rather than trying to close down on goal and the impressive Carli Telford, Press instead curled the ball past the England goalkeeper and into the top right corner. A wonderful strike to open the game up and cement her side’s dominance.
5. Carly Telford lays down gauntlet for Ellie Roebuck
Prior to the tournament, many expected Ellie Roebuck to be England’s number one goalkeeper after an excellent campaign with Manchester City so far, even with the recent injury worries.
But for the game against USWNT, Neville opted to start Carli Telford, who has spent a large part of the WSL campaign playing second fiddle to Ann-Katrin Berger.
And even though she did eventually concede two goals, Telford was excellent. For large parts of the first half, Telford was the reason England remained level, stopping a variety of attacks. That it took a wonder strike and cleverly worked goal to beat her is testament to how good Telford was.
Roebuck is absolutely the future for England, but for now Telford is ensuring the 20-year-old has to fight for her spot.