The U.S. Women’s National Team was crowned 2016 SheBelieves Cup champions on March 9 after a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Germany at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
The SheBelieves Cup, like most world-class competitions, featured low scoring matches where just one goal or one save could make difference between winning, tying or losing. This proved especially true for the USA in the case of Alex Morgan, who scored two of the team’s four goals, and Hope Solo, who stopped all but one shot on goal against three of the world’s top five teams.
As a result of their efforts, Morgan took home both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as the top scorer and best player of the tournament, and Solo earned the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
Solo’s performance throughout the tournament was stellar, and not just when she was called upon to shot-stop. She did have 10 saves and two clean sheets, but her presence supporting the back line, her ability to play the ball with her feet and her aerial dominance once again were keys to the USA finding success. The 2016 SheBelieves Cup Golden Glove award is the fourth consecutive honor for Solo across official competitions, who also won the Golden Glove at the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and most recently at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Of the three strong outings for Solo during the tournament, her best was undoubtedly the March 6 matchup between the USA and France in Nashville, which the USA won 1-0 thanks to a dramatic second half stoppage-time goal from Morgan.
Before Morgan’s heroics, it was Solo who kept the USA in the game early in the first half. Solo made three crucial saves, including a spectacular world effort in the 15th minute.
After a deflected U.S. clearance hit the left post, Solo got back on her feet, shuffled back into the middle of her net and pushed away a point-blank shot to preserve the shutout. It was the second big save Solo made in the game with another close call coming a minute earlier when Louisa Necib struck a free kick and the ball was headed towards the upper right corner before Solo pushed the ball over the bar.
Solo now has 97 career shutouts, by far a WNT record, and is three away from becoming the first goalkeeper in U.S. history to reach the century mark.
Just like Solo, Morgan had three very good games, but her goals in each of final two matches still have fans buzzing. France had more of the player in the match between the two teams, but the U.S. created more opportunities deep in France’s territory as the game wore on.
In the first minute of stoppage time, 17-year-old Mallory Pugh brought a ball down skillfully at midfield and penetrated into France’s defensive half. Pugh slipped a perfectly-weighted pass to Morgan, who made a straight run through France’s back line, and the speedy U.S. striker roared into the penalty box before hitting a left-footed blast past onrushing goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi into the lower right corner.
It was a world class display of speed and athleticism and as well as a brilliant feed from Pugh. It also gave the USA six points in the tournament and set them up for a Women’s World Cup semifinal rematch with Germany three days later in a game that would serve as the de facto SheBelieves Cup tournament title match.
In Wednesday’s finale, forward Anja Mittag staked Germany to a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute with a long range-tally that skipped past Solo’s outstretched arm just inside the left post. Thanks to Morgan, the lead only lasted six minutes.
In the 35th minute and down a goal - the first time the USA had allowed in nine matches this year - Meghan Klingenberg evaded a defender and lofted a through ball into the left side of the Germany box for a sprinting Morgan. Morgan let the ball bounce twice before lifting it over a defender with her left foot and sending a powerful right-footed volley into the net in two fluid steps to tie the game.
Once again, just like she had done against France three days earlier, Morgan’s timing was perfection a masterful display of finishing skill. Morgan has scored eight goals in nine games so far in 2016, a team-leading mark and her best start to a season since 2012 when she notched seven goals in her first nine games.
The U.S. WNT returns to action in April when it squares off against Colombia on April 6 in East Hartford, Connecticut (7 p.m. ET, FS1) and again on April 10 in Chester, Pennsylvania (2 p.m. ET, ESPN).