Excellent opponents and exciting games, that was the 2017 Tournament of Nations as U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis continued her evaluation of players as she goes through the process of building the team towards 2019.
Some notables from the inaugural tournament:
- Defender Taylor Smith earned her first three caps and two starts.
- She picked up her first two assists against Japan in the finale.
- Megan Rapinoe earned her first 90-minute game since 2015, and her first start since Aug. 9, 2016.
- She also scored her first WNT goals since the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
- Ellis gave minutes to 18 of the 20 field players on the roster.
- Alyssa Naeher played every minute of all three games in goal for the USA.
- Allie Long started at defensive midfielder against Australia, followed by Becky Sauerbrunn playing in that slot against Brazil, and then Julie Ertz against Japan.
- Ellis used all six of her substitutions in all three matches.
- The USA had six different scorers during the tournament: Samantha Mewis, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Julie Ertz.
- The USA scored three goals in nine minutes during a comeback to defeat Brazil 4-3.
- Kelley O’Hara played in her 99th game for the USA and could become the 36th American fe
male player to reach 100 caps.
Megan Rapinoe scored two goals and had two assists during the 2017 Tournament of Nations.
The USA finished the tournament in second place following a loss to Australia, a thrilling 4-3 comeback win against Brazil, and a 3-0 shutout victory against Japan. While Australia played excellent attacking soccer in all three games and lifted the trophy with three victories, including its first against the USA, what the U.S. did achieve was the continuing evolution of the team and the deepening of the player pool. Now, Ellis is ready to take the next steps.
“Now it’s about building connections,” Ellis said after the Japan match. “I know what I’ve put the players through in terms of making it a challenge and playing them in different positions, playing them with different people. I get that. It’s a long run up to 2019 but I want to do that now. Look at Australia, they are a seasoned team because they’ve been together so long that they know each other so well. That’s the next step in our process; establishing our starting lineup and working on our chemistry and connections and our team play.”
The U.S. WNT is set to play six more games this year in the fall against three opponents to wrap up 2017. It will face New Zealand twice in September, another pair of soon-to-be-announced friendlies in October, and will end its 2017 campaign with two matches against Canada, on Nov. 9 in Vancouver, and on Nov. 12 in a U.S. venue which will also be announced soon.Read more
It was not the result the U.S. WNT had in mind to kick off the 2017 Tournament of Nations, but despite the 1-0 loss to Australia in a hard-fought game on Thursday night in Seattle, U.S. head coach Jill Ellis found a lot of good to focus on as the long road to 2019 continues.
“It’s the process I’m in, in terms of looking at other players to make sure that we have a good core moving forward,” Ellis said following the match at CenturyLinkField. “It is about giving opportunities to people like Taylor Smith. We came out on the unfortunate side, and congratulations to Australia, and we’re obviously disappointed with the result, but this is part of a process were in. We’re still a year and a bit away from qualifying, so it is about giving players experience and putting them in the pressure cooker. That’s why tournaments like these are so important for us, it’s why we need to bring in these great teams to play against.”
Abby Dahlkemper got her second career start against Australia on July 27.
Against Australia, Ellis gave defender Taylor Smith her first cap and first start. She gave Abby Dahlkemper her second consecutive start, and had Alyssa Naeher in goal for the third consecutive time, a first for the Connecticut native.
“It’s important to check boxes,” Ellis said about her objectives during games at this point in the cycle. “This is about giving Alyssa Naeher more minutes. It’s giving Abby Dahlkemper her fifth cap and giving Taylor Smith her first start. It’s giving Megan Rapinoe her first 90 minutes in a long time. She played really well.”
Rapinoe got her first start since the final group game of the 2016 Olympics Games on Aug. 9, 2016 against Colombia.
With 24 hours to go before its next game, the U.S. WNT will now take the lessons learned, shake off the loss, and direct all focus towards its next two opponents as the chance to lift the ToN trophy remains in sight. The experience gained by several new and younger players will continue to play a crucial part in the development of the depth on the team.
The U.S. WNT will next face Brazil on Sunday, July 30 (5 p.m. PT; ESPN2) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Australia faces Japan in the first game at 2:15 p.m. PT on ESPN3).Read more