US Women’s Team stifles Canada

The U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off its three-game run at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, with a 1-0 victory against Canada as midfielder Rose Lavelle scored in the 79th minute.

In a tightly-contested match against the most frequent foe in USWNT history, the USA threatened on a number of set piece opportunities throughout the evening, earning 13 corners to Canada’s five and several free kicks in dangerous territory. After creating quality chances and knocking on the door for much of the night, the USA finally broke through off a free kick when Lavelle, a second-half substitute, pounced on a poor clearance in the penalty box and fired home for the game’s lone goal.

The victory ties the USA (1-0-0, 3 points) with Brazil on points atop the SheBelieves Cup standings after the conclusion of the first matchday, but Brazil is currently in first place based on a better goal differential. In the first game of the evening Brazil (1-0-0, 3 points) defeated its longtime South American rival, Argentina (0-1-0, 0 points) 4-1.

It took some time for the USWNT to find its attacking rhythm in the first half as the Canadian defense packed the middle of the field and did well to counter. Canada starting goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan had to be substituted out of the match in just the 11th minute after picking up an injury. Her replacement, Stephanie Labbé, played a tremendous match as she was called upon to make several spectacular saves along with several quality punches while Canada’s defense against set pieces and corner kicks was extremely solid.

The ball stayed in Canada’s end for the majority of the first half, and more U.S. chances came around the half-hour mark, as Carli Lloyd threatened on some cutting runs while fellow forwards Megan Rapinoe and Lynn Williams also created danger. Williams ripped two long-range shots, in the 39th and 44th minutes, but Labbé twice made nice diving saves to keep the match level.

The U.S. nearly opened the scoring during a frenzied period in first-half stoppage time as the WNT worked the ball around the Canadian penalty box. Labbé bobbled a hard-hit shot from Rapinoe near the right post and Williams was almost able to knock it in before the ball slipped out of bounds.

Canada earned some of its best attacking opportunities shortly after the break, but defender Becky Sauerbrunn snuffed out some close-range danger in the 51st and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher make a big-time save on a shot from close range in the 53rd as forward Janine Beckie had a wide open chance after a bad U.S. turnover in the back.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski made a flurry of substitutions around the 60-minute mark and the fresh legs made an instant impact. Christen Press fired a ball into the side netting with one of her first touches in the 65th, while some shifty moves from Crystal Dunn teed up a hard-hit header for Alex Morgan in the 69th. Midfielder Lindsey Horan rattled a shot from distance off the crossbar in the 77th and the USA finally broke through shortly after with Lavelle’s 14th international goal.

Naeher recorded her 39th career shutout and her ninth consecutive clean sheet, the longest streak of her career. Canada put a shot on target in the 17th minute to end the U.S. defense’s streak of not allowing a shot on goal during its last 302 minutes of play, though the USA outshot its northern neighbor 29-8 on the night.

The USWNT will next face Brazil on Sunday, Feb. 21 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The match will kick off at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN.