Champions: Morgan’s blast puts USWNT past Germany

Alex Morgan Goal vs FRA

By TOM SLATER

The United States got everything it wanted to out of the SheBelieves Cup tournament — including the trophy and all the individual awards to boot.

The Americans won its own tournament by beating the Germans 2-1 on the strength of an amazing goal by Alex Morgan and a bit of luck on a goal by midfielder Samantha Mewis.

The victory gives the top-ranked United States team three straight victories while No. 2 Germany fell for the first time in the tournament.

England and France tied 0-0 in the opening match of the doubleheader in Boca Raton. England finished third and France, somehow, did not score a goal the entire tournament.

In addition to the tournament title, the United States swept the individual awards with Hope Solo getting the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper and Morgan winning the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards as the top goal scorer and top player.

But aside from winning the tournament and the awards, the United States found out that their lineup in transition holds up against quality competition. And the young Americans found out it can play from behind as well.

Germany led after a superb goal from Anja Mittag in the 29th minute. Mittag picked up a loose ball after the United States couldn’t control it and rifled a low shot past Solo from 25 yards out. The goal broke a shutout streak of 748 minutes in 2016, but more important, the Germans seemed to be in control of the game and the more dangerous team.

But six minutes later, the game changed. Meghan Klingenberg, who had a great night getting into the attack, won a ball and lofted a smartly aimed pass to Morgan on the full run. With Saskia Bartusiak keeping up stride for stride, Morgan trapped it over the defender’s head, kept running and volleyed it past goalkeeper Almuth Shult.

Mewis put the Americans ahead for good in the 41st minute. After making a solid tackle just inside midfield, Mewis pushed forward and hit a low shot that was deflected just enough to go under Shult’s arms for the game-winner.

The second half was a battle of midfield as neither team was too dangerous. One scary moment came in the 77th minute when Mittag was on a full run coming down the left side. Defender Ali Kreiger came in to make the tackle and give Germany a harmless throw-in.

The game started out differently as United States coach Jill Ellis wanted to see some of her other players against quality completion and made five switches from the last match.  Kreiger replaced Kelley O’Hara on the backline. Whitney Engen started in place of central defender Julie Johnston. Christen Press and Crystal Dunn – both whom have come off the bench in the previous two matches – started over Tobin Health and Mallory Pugh.

Mewis also made her third start of the year with Lindsey Horan going to the bench.

The changes made no difference to the Americans as all the new starters played well, especially Engen on defense in her first meaningful minutes in 2016.

With 150 days until Rio, the SheBelieves Cup served its purpose well. At least for the United States.