Dunn comes off the bench to lead USWNT over England, 1-0

160213 Becky Sauerbrunn

by TOM SLATER

Crystal Dunn would probably rather start for the United States Women’s National Team, but everyone saw her value coming off the bench tonight.

Dunn used a patented spin move to rip a laser shot into the net in the 72nd minute to give the United States a 1-0 win over England to help kick off the inaugural SheBelieves Cup in Tampa.

The United States are tied with Germany in the #SheBelieves tournament, who used a late goal by Leonie Maier to beat France, 1-0, in the opener.

The United States plays France and England faces Germany in Nashville on Sunday.

Dunn came on for teenage sensation Mallory Pugh in the 67th minute and wasted no time in breaking a scoreless draw. She took a short pass from Meghan Klingenberg on the left side and spun away to get separation from English captain and top defender Steph Houghton before blasting a shot in the upper far corner, giving English goalkeeper Kate Bardsley no chance. That’s her 11th goal in the last 12 games – with five coming against Puerto Rico in Olympic Qualifying.

The goal broke up a scoreless game that had England suffocating the United States with a disciplined, organized defense.  Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, who have proved to be a deadly combination thus far in 2016, were stifled by England all night. Every time either got the ball – which wasn’t very much – they were immediately surround by English defenders.

For long stretches, England were equal to the Americans, although neither team was getting clear looks at goal.

Toni Duggan had the best chance for England. Early in the game, Duggan picked off a pass just outside the penalty area but Becky Sauerbrunn came back to win the ball and prevent a goal. In the second half, Duggan went in on the right side and had Jodie Taylor wide open at the far post. But a bad touch put Duggan in a bad spot and she shot right to Hope Solo, who notched her record 96th shutout.

Just past the hour, United States coach Jill Ellis had seen enough and sent on Christen Press for Lindsey Horan and then Dunn for Pugh. Dunn had a weird CONCACAF tournament, winning the Golden Boot with six goals but not playing in the final against Canada.

But she proved her worth with her electrifying goal.

After the goal, Ellis brought on more subs – defenders Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger – to stop England without a threat.

With one game gone in SheBelieves Cup, here’s what we found out:

Pugh was fun to watch: Pugh was the best American in the first half and was entertaining, unless you were England defender Lucy Bronze. Pugh had no problems taking runs at the English defense and twice blew by Bronze in the opening half and nearly getting the United States a goal with a well-placed serve and a timely head ball. Bronze was wise to back off and not lunge in against the teen.

The English had a solid game plan: The Lionesses were the surprise third-place winners in the Women’s World Cup and with better luck could have been in the final. Coach Mark Sampson’s side were incredibly prepared and organized, especially in the midfield, and came out strong against the United States. The Americans never got into a comfortable rhythm. A draw would have been a fair result.

Lloyd and Morgan were silent: The two most dangerous Americans were not heard from at all. Morgan never got the ball, mostly because England kept the pressure in the midfield. Lloyd found at least two defenders near her every time she got the ball. Alex Greenwood, Fara Williams and Jordan Nobbs never let Lloyd have enough room to get comfortable.

Morgan Brian and Lindsey Horan need to solve the midfield: They young duo have high soccer IQs and worked well together earlier in the year. But England’s aggressive midfield made for a difficult night for the two. They saw time and space disappear quickly and need to figure a way to get break down defenses from the middle as the opposition is much tougher from here on in.