On February 24, 2021, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) won their fourth SheBelieves Cup title in six years and became the first back-to-back champion in the tournament’s history. Even more impressive is the fact that the Lady Yanks did not give up a single goal during this three-match international tournament in Orlando, Florida before a restricted crowd.
The USWNT secured victories over Canada (1-0), Brazil (2-0), and then beat Argentina 6-0 on Wednesday. In this lopsided win, goals came in flurries from veterans Megan Rapinoe (2), Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Christen Press, and first-time mother Alex Morgan.
Fans of Colorado Rush star Lindsey Horan and Real Colorado’s Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell must have been overjoyed when the trio was on the field as a unit, starting at the 61st minute through the final minute of play. The two youngest players on the USWNT roster, Howell (21) and Smith (20) made their second and third full international appearances. All three Colorado natives were second-half substitutes.
In the 84th minute, Smith took a pass from Becky Sauerbrunn at the midfield line and dribbled past a series of defenders before she slotted a made-for-a-highlight-video pass to Alex Morgan, who was near the penalty box. Morgan started her run, took the perfectly weighted-pass, and blasted a shot over the oncoming La Albiceleste goalkeeper.
Four minutes later, Horan found a moon shot corner kick from teammate Kristie Mewis and volleyed the incoming ball across the mouth of the goal to an unmarked Christen Press. Press then headed the ball into the right corner to make it 6-0. It was Horan’s fourth assist in the tournament.
Jaelin Howell made her first appearance in the tournament and demonstrated her prowess in the midfield by breaking up counter attacks, double-teaming her opponents, and delivering stiff picks during several set plays.
The three will now depart for their next destinations. Howell, a junior at Florida State University, will trek across Florida to Tallahassee and resume her schooling. Horan and Smith will fly cross country to rejoin their Portland Thorns teammates as they prepare for National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season play. The fourth Coloradoan, Mallory Pugh, who trained with the group before the tournament started is already with her NWSL side, the Chicago Red Stars.
All four hope to receive invitations from head coach Vlatko Andonovski to the few remaining USWNT camps and to-be-announced friendlies before the fast-approaching Summer Olympics.
During his postgame celebration and press conference, the pleased coach reflected on the rout. “It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low, it’s hard to break them down ... and it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions, and how we can do it. That was one thing that we’re looking at. How quick can we do it? Who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team?”
He continued, “understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles and the execution individually, as a group, as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for. So, overall very happy with how we performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”
In defeating Argentina, the U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 37 games. They are now unbeaten in their last 53 home matches. They have outscored opponents 188-27, including a margin of 58-3 during the last 15 matches at home.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff boast a 16-0-0 record, the best start for a head coach in the history of U.S. women's soccer.
The highlight of the press conference was hearing from a beaming Alex Morgan. She has not played with the USWNT in over 500 days. During her interview session, she said, “I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team and join the list of moms on the team who have scored goals and played as a national team player.” She added, “I just want to be an example for other female athletes who are moms or want to become moms, knowing that they still belong in the game.”