The United States women’s national team opened up 2019 with its first loss since the summer of 2017, falling 3-1 to World Cup hosts France at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France.
The loss broke up the Americans’ 28-match unbeaten streak.
“I’m not worried. We know who we are and what we can do,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis told reporters after the loss.
The hosts got off to an early start, opening the scoring in the ninth minute. Delphine Cascarino won the ball in midfield, setting up Eugenie Le Sommer to make a run on the right flank. Le Sommer sent a cross into the box, which U.S. defender Emily Fox had difficulty stopping, leaving Kadidiatou Diani with an easy opportunity to score from close range.
A version of that play was repeated for the rest of the first half, as France continued to create opportunities by going up the same flank. Cascarino, in particular, took advantage of the space given up by the inexperienced Fox, who played only her third international match at right back. The reigning world champions were limited to a few chances, frequently sparked by Christen Press on the same flank.
A few minutes into the second half, Ellis switched out Fox for Tierna Davidson, the No. 1 pick in the NWSL draft, but the issues persisted. In the 54th minute, Diani made a run off of Abby Dahlkemper and scored with a curled shot from the right side of the box.
The USWNT conceded a third goal in the 76th minute off another defensive mistake. Elise Bussaglia’s long ball from inside France’s half found substitute Marie-Antoinette Katoto near the U.S. goal. The forward was left mostly unmarked, as the visitors again had trouble in transition, and Katoto was easily able to move around goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who came off her line, for the goal.
The U.S. team scored a consolation goal in stoppage time. Substitutes Carli Lloyd and Samantha Mewis combined for a smooth play in midfield, with the ball eventually ending up at Mallory Pugh’s feet. The Washington Spirit player made her way into the box and scored soon afterward.
In addition to defensive struggles, the USWNT could not match the fitness of their opponents in the team’s first match after the offseason. Ellis also elected to put out an experimental lineup, with Fox playing at left back and the team’s usual starter there, Crystal Dunn, getting minutes in midfield. Alex Morgan, meanwhile, was flanked by Mallory Pugh on the right and Press on the left while usual starters Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe were dealing with injuries.
Though the result is a rare loss, the USWNT is not entirely in unfamiliar territory. The team has not won its opening match in a World Cup year since 1999, and lost to France in 2015 before winning the World Cup, that time losing 2-0 in Lorient.
French coach Corinne Diacre, whose team made a statement with the win, told reporters after the match, “everything was not perfect, but we can be satisfied.”
The Americans return to action on Tuesday, playing Spain at Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante.