BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — In order to win the Tournament of Nations, the U.S. women’s national team had to beat Brazil by two or more goals. It played like it.
The Americans came out on fire, pressing the Brazilians and consistently getting the ball into dangerous areas. Then Brazil took the lead on a counter via an own goal.
That didn’t stop the U.S., which rattled off four straight goals to win the match 4-1 and the Tournament of Nations trophy with it late Thursday night. The match drew an announced crowd of 18,309 at Toyota Park.
Earlier in the day, Australia beat Japan 2-0 to put the pressure on the U.S. The Matildas and the Americans finished the tournament with two wins and a draw. The U.S. finished one better on goal differential.
“We watched Australia’s game and we knew we had to win by a margin of two, so that was in the back of our minds,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. “As soon as we were ahead we knew the game was going to just open up a lot more because Brazil wanted that equalizer, so I feel like in the second half we just were unstoppable. It was just a great performance by the team.”
While the U.S. had the territorial edge for most of the match, Brazil was dangerous on the counter. Brazil turned a counter into a goal on the first opportunity. American centerback Tierna Davidson, a 19-year-old earning her 10th cap, slid to redirect a cross, but she sent the ball into the upper corner in the 16th minute.
The Americans tied things up in style with a volley from Rose Lavelle in the 33rd minute. It was Lavelle’s first goal since a hamstring injury kept her out for several months.
“I mean, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I feel like I usually shank those way over the goal, so I just wanted to make good contact with it,” Lavelle said. “I think that was kind of the monkey on my shoulders that has kind of been weighing on my back since I’ve been back. When am I going to get that first goal? Again, like I’ve said a million times, I had to trust where I was at and trust that it was going to come. Thankfully, tonight it did.”
The Americans kept the pressure up in the second half after knowing they still needed two goals at the break.
Julie Ertz, playing in the same stadium where she plays her club ball, put the U.S. in front. Tobin Heath put some fancy moves on two defenders to get some space in the box for a cross and Ertz slid in for the finish.
Heath was at it again eight minutes later with a first-touch shot just outside the box. That gave the Americans the important two-goal lead. Morgan added an insurance goal by redirecting a Megan Rapinoe free kick in the 77th minute.
“Obviously fantastic result, fantastic time to respond to the own goal,” Heath said. “I think the variety of our attack and the way that we dominated the game was a good third game.”
U.S. coach Jill Ellis said she wanted the team to approach the three-game round-robin tournament like a group stage.
“I just feel overall really good about the team performance and I think it really felt like that in both sides of the ball,” Ellis said. “In our attacking and our defending it’s probably the most complete tournament in terms of our play that we’ve had. We just feel like we’ve taken really big steps.”