Megan Rapinoe owns the left flank, and on Wednesday night she proved it yet again against England while leading the U.S. women’s national soccer team to a second SheBelieves Cup title.
The U.S. needed a win in the final match of the competition in order to win the cup, and got it thanks to the relentless aggression of Rapinoe, who blasted a right-footed shot in the 58th minute that deflected off an English defender and then the goalkeeper for the lone goal in a 1-0 victory at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
England goalie Karen Bardsley bent to collect Rapinoe’s deflected shot, but defender Millie Bright touched it with her foot, banking the ball off Bardsley and into the net for Bright’s second own goal of the tournament.
With the victory, Team USA regained the SheBelieves Cup title. The U.S. women won the inaugural version in 2016 before a disappointing fourth-place performance last year.
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Only a victory would do for the Americans to win the title. The U.S. had defeated Germany and tied France in its first two games of the round-robin tournament. England had defeated France and tied with Germany, but England’s 4-1 victory over the French gave the Lionesses the edge in goal differential, so a win or a tie would give England the cup.
Thanks to her high-energy play and fortuitous goal, Rapinoe helped ensure that didn’t happen.
The game also marked a milestone for U.S. captain Carli Lloyd, who became the sixth player in U.S. history to earn her 250th cap.
England played some exceptional defense in front of Bardsley in the opening half. The Lionesses packed the box to thwart the high-powered attack, but the U.S. began to build the field late in the half to draw England out of its shell.
Alyssa Naeher started all three games in goal for the U.S.
It was an emotional night in Orlando for other reasons, as Team USA hosted the family, high school team and club team of Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the victims of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. The guests were presented with special national team jerseys with Alhadeff’s name on the back and a pre-game moment of silence was held in memory of all the victims of the shooting.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.