USWNT vs. Germany: Marquee matchup in SheBelieves finale

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by TOM SLATER

When US Soccer put together the SheBelieves Cup, this was the dream matchup everybody wanted to see.

The United States versus Germany. No. 1 in the world against No. 2. For all the marbles.

When the Americans meet the Germans tomorrow night in Boca Raton, the winner will get the trophy and a whole lot of momentum going into the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Both teams are even with both matches going pretty much the same. In all four matches, the winners needed late goals to take three points.

In Sunday’s victories, both the United States and Germany needed some late drama before eliminating France and England.

The United States needed a stoppage time goal from Alex Morgan to break a scoreless draw in the 1-0 win. The victory came after France had three excellent chances in the opening half but came up empty thanks to two Hope Solo saves and a sturdy crossbar. The Americans opened up their game in the second half but were heading for a draw until Morgan converted a wonderful through pass from Mallory Pugh.

England held a 1-0 lead with just over 20 minutes left when an own goal and a penalty kick by Babett Peter put Germany in a position to win the four-team tournament.

Tomorrow’s encounter is a rematch of the one of the most watched Women’s World Cup matches to date as nearly 8.4 million people tuned to see the Americans defeat the Germans, 2-0 in Montreal in the semifinals.

Here’s what to look for tomorrow night:

What happens in the opening 20 minutes: In both of its first two matches, the United States has started slow as both England and France came out strong. The Americans needed to sort itself out in both games before becoming the stronger team in the second half. See if Germany uses the same strategy to try for an early goal and make the US chase the game. By the way, a tie benefits Germany, who would win via the third tie-breaker (goals scored).

Tactical moves by Jill Ellis: The United States have a double-edged sword coming off the bench in Christen Press and Crystal Dunn. They gave the United States energy against England and Dunn ripped a cracker of a goal. Both got in the game with very little left in the match against France and had no impact. See if the sub come early – or if we see some new starters – against Germany.

Morgan and Carli Lloyd to get involved: It’s no secret, the United States offense functions on all levels when both get early touches and have room to operate. England stymied them for most of the game but duo had better success in the second half against France. If they get on the same page early, the game will open up for the United States.

Germany is no slouch: The Germans haven’t set the world on fire in the SheBelieves Cup but they are a quality side. They have a veteran backline and even with a new goalkeeper to replace the retired Nadine Angerer, they are tough to score upon. And even though they haven’t scored a ton of goals, forward Anja Mittag is always a threat.

They also have their own young gun to match the United States’ Pugh in attacking midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan, who at 23 is widely considered one of the best young players in the world.

Prediction: The United States holds serve in this de facto championship game, scoring a late goal by Lloyd off a Morgan Brian corner kick for the 1-0 win.

The match is set for 7:30 EST and will be available only on ESPN3.