1. Julie Ertz vs. Korea Republic (International Friendly; Oct. 19): Something everyone can agree on is that Julie Ertz was dangerous in the penalty area this year. All six of her goals came from set pieces, but her goal against Korea Republic on Oct. 19 had a little extra mustard on it as Ertz nutmegged the goalkeeper with a diving header. The goal came off a well-struck corner kick by Megan Rapinoe from the left side that flew towards the near post. The diving Ertz sent a low, skidding header through the legs of the goalkeeper. The celebration afterwards was equally as fun.
2. Megan Rapinoe vs. Brazil (Tournament of Nations; July 30): She had just assisted Christen Press on the goal that ignited the comeback, making the score 3-2 in favor of Brazil, but then Rapinoe took the reins, scoring one of the best goals of her career to tie the game, 3-3. She settled a well-placed lofted pass from Press with a perfect touch inside the penalty area and then, with Brazil goalkeeper Barbara cheating ever so slightly for the cross, blasted her shot from a stiff angle so hard towards the near post that Barbara couldn’t react in time. Her reaction and the reaction of her teammates (as well as the pumped-up crowd inside Qualcomm Stadium) showed just how big a goal it was.
3. Alex Morgan vs. New Zealand (International Friendly; Sept. 15): This was another beauty from Alex Morgan. Sofia Huerta, playing in her first cap, sent a long cross from the right wing into the left side of the box, where Morgan brought it down with her left foot, evaded a closing defender and then ripped her shot into the roof of the net for her second goal of the year. It was vintage Morgan.
4. Megan Rapinoe vs. Japan (Tournament of Nations; Aug. 3): Breaking ankles inside of the six-yard box is how Megan Rapinoe added her name to the scoring sheet. The goal came when Christen Press found space between two defenders to slip a beautiful pass to Rapinoe, who was cutting into the right side of the penalty box. Rapinoe latched onto the pass, faked a shot to force the Japanese defender into a slide and then hesitated long enough for the defender to move out of the way as she got to her feet. Rapinoe then had enough space to slot her shot into the lower left corner from close range. The goal was worthy of a classic Rapinoe celebration, and that’s exactly what she gave to the fans.
5. Christen Press vs. Korea Republic (International Friendly; Oct. 22): This much we know: Press can be lethal shooting from outside the 18-yard box. On a nice U.S. build-up through the midfield, Alex Morgan found Press with a threaded pass near the top of the penalty area. She squared up on a defender, made space for a shot with a quick move to her right and whipped the ball brilliantly into the upper right corner for her third goal of 2017.
6. Julie Ertz vs. Brazil (Tournament of Nations, July 30): After two goals in five minutes brought the USA back to life against Brazil, the game was now tied 3-3 at the 85-minute mark. Ertz completed the incredible comeback with her game-winning goal in the 89th. Rapinoe was once again involved in the goal, playing Kelley O’Hara down the right side on the overlap. O’Hara’s cross bounced off the sliding Carli Lloyd and back to Ertz, who blasted the loose ball into the back of the net from six yards out for the victory. It was Ertz’ first goal of 2017…. but it wouldn’t be her last.
7. Christen Press vs. Brazil (Tournament of Nations, July 30): After Brazil made it 3-1 in the 78th minute on well-placed free-kick goal, ESPN commentator Ian Darke was understandably gloomy about the USA’s prospects. “The U.S., surely sunk here….”, said Darke, but then something amazing happened. The USA scored three goals in nine minutes, starting with this Christen Press rocket. Megan Rapinoe slipped a perfectly weighted pass into the left side of the penalty box for Press, who collected, spun toward goal and smacked a right-footed shot into the upper left corner from 14 yards away to make it 3-2.
8. Alex Morgan vs. Canada (International Friendly; Nov. 9): Of her team-leading seven goals this year, one of Morgan’s best came against a familiar opponent: Canada. The play began when Casey Short did well to take advantage of some poor clearances by Canada and headed the ball back into the mixer. Morgan kept a U.S. attack alive by bravely heading the bouncing ball past a defender and then drilling a half-volley with her right foot between three Canada defenders. The shot bounced hard past the outstretched arm of Stephanie Labbé and into the lower right corner for a timely and stylish finish.
9. Allie Long vs. Russia (International Friendly; April 6): In classic Allie Long fashion, she scored on a header in the 70th minute (her second of the night) after Mallory Pugh crossed into the middle of the six-yard box. Long beat a pair of players with a powerful falling header for her fifth career goal (all of which had come on headers, although she did go on to score her sixth with her foot on Oct. 22) and her second multi-goal game for the USA, which coincidentally enough came exactly a year after her first (April 6, 2016, against Colombia in East Hartford, Connecticut).
10. Mallory Pugh vs. Japan (Tournament of Nations; Aug. 3): Pugh hadn’t scored for the WNT so far in 2017, and after suffering an injury during warmups on June 11 in Norway, she made her return to game action in the Tournament of Nations. Against Japan in the 60th minute, Pugh received a perfect ball from Taylor Smith and swiftly ran into the box, charging at the ‘keeper all alone before calmly finishing with a low shot. The classy finish by the 19-year-old showcased her decision-making as well as her growth over the last year.Read more
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
In the last year, U.S. WNT midfielder Samantha Mewis has seen her role shift and evolve. She first broke into the team on a more consistent basis in the latter part of 2015, but it wasn’t until late in 2016 that she began to feature more prominently in the starting lineup.
In 2017, she has started all nine games the USA has played this year and has been on the field for 773 minutes, second-most on the team behind Becky Sauerbrunn’s 810 minutes, while becoming an important part of the USA’s midfield dynamic.
Despite the confidence the coaching staff has placed in her, the six-foot Massachusetts native – the tallest field player ever to play for the USA -- knows it would be unwise to ever allow herself to get comfortable on the U.S. team as the competition to earn, keep, or regain a starting role never ceases.
“Every day is a new challenge here,” Mewis said of the WNT environment. “I’m still trying to just absorb as much as I can and grow as a player and as a person. It’s always an honor to play on this team but I don’t expect anything. Every day is a new day and every game is a new game, so each time we come in here we have to earn something and we have to fight for something, and that’s what makes this team so special.”
Besides her acumen in the center of the field, her savvy passing skills and ball-winning abilities in the air and on the ground, she can also score. Against Brazil on July 30, Mewis scored her first goal of 2017, and the fifth of her career, with a grass-cutter from just outside the penalty area to even the match at 1-1 in the 18th minute.Read more