The performance of the US women’s national team in this year’s SheBelieves cup is, so far, up to par with the impressive expectations the team has cultivated in these past few years. The six-game tournament between the US, Argentina, Brazil, and Canada began February 18th with Brazil defeating Argentina and the United States coming out victorious over Canada. When the games resumed on the 21st, the United States played Brazil and scored two goals, allowing none to pass through their ranks.
The US women’s soccer team, which is currently ranked number one in FIFA standings, has come out victorious in 15 consecutive games since bringing on manager Vlatko Andonovski, but their excellence has been there since long before his arrival. ESPN soccer correspondent Jeff Carlisle writes that “watching the United States women’s national team is akin to finding flaws in the Sistine Chapel. On most days, there is nary an imperfection to be found.” However, while their excellence is undeniable, so is the fact that these wins against Canada, and especially Brazil, were not handed over easily and could signal some potential weaknesses to be addressed before the Olympic games.
“These matches were difficult and a great character-builder for us,” Andonovski said. “We want to play the best competition possible. We want to play against different types of opponents—ones that will present different challenges. Hopefully we can get better from it.”
During their game against Brazil, American Christen Press scored a goal in the first half with her “signature shot” to the far lower corner of the goal. During the second half though, the team seemed to slow down, putting their lead in the balance as they struggled to score their second goal as Brazil came again and again on the attack. Megan Rapinoe eventually did score that second point, giving them some breathing room, and after she scored she cradled her arms to the camera as a tribute to teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlynn Harris who were not at the game, having recently adopted a child.
ESPN wrote that Sunday’s game had some flaws that needed to be addressed before they face the Olympic games. “In both matches, the US conceded some wide-open chances in transitions that weren’t converted.” Sports reporters specifically named Emily Sonnet’s performance as one that will need to be polished before the games, as she lost a number of challenges in the midfield during the game against Brazil. “A couple of times I thought she could have done a better job,” coach Andovonoski told ESPN. “But overall she’s playing against one of the best players in the world right now and she was able to step in front, deny some of those passes going to her.” Andovonoski said that Sonnet’s performance was good overall, and that the team needed these games to highlight what needs to be worked on.
This game was also the first time the team did not kneel for the national anthem, a gesture meant to show solidarity and send a message in regard to racism and police brutality. Player Crystal Dunn said that the decision to stand was made by all the players together and said that it was because they are moving “past the protesting phase” and channeling energy into work and activism to enact change. “We decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to kneel because we know we are doing the work behind the scenes,” Dunn said. “We are combating systemic racism.” She said that the team knew that the kneeling was not going to be permanent and this transition was always something that was going to happen, but that they are not stopping the conversations and the work that goes in to social justice.