The United States Women’s National Team may have lost their shutout streak, but their win streak lives on. After their 4-0 win against the same Nigerian team 3 days ago, USA again started on their front foot. However, it was clear early on that Nigeria had no intention of making it easy for the US.
USA started off well, creating chances just minutes into the match, but the Nigerian team showed its resilience as well as their physicality as they cut out USA’s early chances with last minute tackles, blocked shots, and many fouls just outside their 18 yard box. Unfortunately for Nigerian defender Oluwatosin Blessing Demehin, her last minute lunge to clear a driven ball was misdirected into the back of her own net in the 24th minute to put USA up 1-0.
While those in attendance started to believe they were in for a flurry of goals, Nigeria continued to press and make playing through their lines difficult as they continued to bring down USA players in last-ditch efforts which coincidently saw them lead the way in committed fouls with 13 to just 3 for the Americans. However, their rigid tactics held the USA attack at bay and they began to find more of their rhythm as they attacked on the counter as USA committed more numbers forward looking for their second goal. Nigeria’s relentless work finally paid off in the 50th minute as Uchenna Kanu sent a beautiful curling shot past stranded USA goalkeeper Casey Murphy, which found the upper right corner of the net. The goal was the first conceded by the U.S. team in 9 consecutive matches.
Vlatko Andonovski, witnessing control of the game being threatened by a growing confidence in the Nigerian team, needed to make a change. This change came via Megan Rapinoe, who replaced young starlet Sophia Smith in the 65th minute. It took Rapinoe just 73 seconds to make her mark on the match after receiving a roaring introduction from the Washington DC faithful. Receiving a through ball down the left flank, she drove past her defender and with a sharp cut back clipped a perfectly weighted left-footed cross which saw Rose Lavelle, turned contortionist, dive to her left and send a header to the bottom right corner from a seemingly impossible angle. The goal was Lavelle’s 4th goal this calendar year and 22nd overall for the National team.
USA continued to apply pressure, looking to double their lead. While outshooting Nigeria on the night 16 to 5, they were thwarted time and again by a stingy Nigerian backline and goalkeeper Chiamaka Nniadoze. The Nigerian team can walk away with their heads held high as they showed not only their talent but also their ability to compete with the world’s best team on any given night.
With this win, USA extends their unbeaten home streak to 71 games, the second longest in team history, and improves to 13-0-1 on the year.
While there was plenty of action at Audi Field last night, some of the biggest action came from off the field. For the first time in history, the U.S. Soccer Federation, U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association, and the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association came together to sign Collective Bargaining Agreements, which now achieves equal pay for both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Andonovski commented after the game, “It’s a historic moment for soccer in the States. It’s a historic moment for women’s soccer around the world and not just for soccer, but for sports in general. I’ve always said that this team is very progressive-minded and always sets standards for a lot of things, not just sports, and I’m proud and honored to be a part of this team.”
USA will next be in action when they take on England, the recently crowned Champions of Europe, at the storied Wembley Stadium on October 7th. England will have plenty to prove, as the last time they faced each other saw the United States win 2-0 in the She Believes Cup. It will be quite the occasion for two of the world’s heavyweights as they continue their preparations for the 2023 World Cup hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.