The U.S. Women’s National Team and England played a highly competitive and combative match during the SheBelieves Cup on March 4 on a freezing night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The USA would fall to the Lionesses, 1-0, on an 89th minute goal from Ellen White that came off a goal mouth scramble following a corner kick. But despite the difficult result in front of a sellout crowd, U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis said there were many positives to take away from the match, especially the bright debut of 21-year-old midfielder Rose Lavelle.
“(There was) a phenomenal answer I got tonight: Rose Lavelle. She was fantastic,” Ellis said in the post-match press conference.
Lavelle, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NWSL College Draft by the Boston Breakers, made her first appearance and start against England, playing all 90 minutes for the USA. It was a pressure cooker of an environment for a first cap, but Lavelle played with savvy and sophistication, as well as speed and grit.
A central midfielder for the University of Wisconsin and for the U.S. Youth National Teams (she was a starter in the middle for the USA at the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada), Lavelle started against England on the left flank, a different position for her, but the left-footer settled in quickly and made quite an impression on her coach, teammates and the fans.
Lavelle connected passes, moved the ball forward, often found ways to get out of pressure situations and she even had two nutmegs. It was quite a night for the youngster out of Cincinnati who elicited cheers on several occasions from the crowd of 26,500 who saw a player blooming right in front of their eyes. Just check out the play below.
“Definitely for the first couple of touches I was nervous, but then the adrenaline started going,” Lavelle said. “I felt that I got my groove as the game went on.”
If the nerves were there, they quickly dissipated as she displayed flair and made her presence felt early, especially in the 19th minute, in what was probably the USA’s best chance on a goal.
Crystal Dunn did well to beat her defender in the right side of the penalty box and chipped in a cross that was flicked on to the far post. Unmarked, Lavelle controlled the ball with her midsection and sent a full volley straight for the goal that England ‘keeper Siobhan Chamberlain stopped brilliantly with a reflex save.
Since the end of the Olympics, Ellis has spoken often about the need to expand and deepen the player pool. While it’s just one cap, it was a debut that showed that Lavelle is a worthy investment moving forward, a player that can bring creativity and the ability to break down opponents with her passing and dribbling.
“It was her first cap, but after five minutes of nerves she settled into that game and she was one of the best players in the park,” Ellis said. “So that was fantastic. She did very well wide and she’s a natural lefty so we like that out there.”
While the road to 2019 is a long one, Lavelle was an example of a solid group of young players who may be able to make an impact over the next few years. Of course, there are always growing pains, but at this point in the journey, that’s fine with Ellis.
“I think sometimes you don’t learn about the details of the game and how important they are until unfortunately you sometimes pay a price,” Ellis said after the loss to England. “Details about making sure were there for a second ball, making sure a player is doing what they need to do. When you fail, the lesson hits home harder in terms of feeling the sting of it. This is a game that’s going to stay with them and hopefully a springboard to further commitment for us to be better. I thought there were a lot of good things. “Lavelle was certainly one of those good things; an exciting player that took advantage of her opportunity to play and bloom in her senior debut. A worthy night for a Rose.