USA beat Brazil to win inaugural W Gold Cup in San Diego

March 11- The USA beat Brazil 1-0 in front of 31,528 screaming fans in the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego to win the inaugural W Gold Cup. It was an exciting climax to three weeks of international football that saw the women’s game take another major step forward on and off the pitch.

A Lindsey Horan headed goal in added time at the end of the first half broke the deadlock between two evenly matched teams. The US had saved their best for last in this tournament and the Brazilians, for all their possession and individual skills and silky touches couldn’t fashion chances close enough to goal.

The result sends a message from the world number 2 ranked nation that they are good for their ranking and with the Olympics coming they are getting ready for the European challenge.

The US beat a very good Canadian team in the semi-finals and a Brazilian team that brought flair and passion to the tournament as only Brazilian teams do.

Brazil showed that their 11th placed world ranking might be a little shy of their real position and they will only get better. If they had had a full squad to pick from the result might have been different.

But they didn’t and the US, after huge rotations in their starting line-ups earlier in the tournament, now look to have identified key players, formation and roles. What they could really do with is a little bit of the unexpected as they look to break down defences rather than break through them.

Brazil came into the game without captain Rafaelle who fractured a bone in her left foot in the semi-final against Mexico, and midfield dynamo Ary Borges, two key players in the spine of their team.

Coach Arthur Elias handed the captain’s armband to Bia Zanaretto and brought in Thais da Silva in defence and Gabi Portilho in midfield. Up front he dropped Debinha to the bench, bringing in Gabi Nunes.

USA coach Twila Kilgore had no injury problems making just two changes, and again returning to experience over youth after their penalty shoot-out win against Canada.

Crystal Dunn was brought in for Jenna Nighswonger while the impressive Jaedyn Shaw was dropped for the dependable Rose Lavelle.

Brazil started slightly stronger. In the 6th minute Andrea Leal on the right broke through on the right but just failed to make connections. Antonia on the right of Brazil’s defence, who has had a standout tournament for Brazil and was a real threat coming forward all night, hammered a shot over.

Leal on the right found top Gabi Nunes who couldn’t quite control her second touch in the box.

In the 9th minute Tierna Davisdon left her studs high on Nunes 25m out. Duda Santos’s shot was just over the right hand corner.

Brazil were having the more meaningful possession in front of goal. In midfield the US were giving the ball and fouls away to easily.

In the 15’ Alex Morgan had the US’s first real shot in anger easily blocked, but it was a sign the US were coming to grips with the Brazilian style.

On 17’ Lindsey Horan found space between the Brazilian back three but Sam Coffey overhit her pass.

Brazil countered on 22’ with Gabi Portilho fed into space angling in from the right but her shot landed on the roof of the net. For all their possession and shots Alyssa Naeher had yet to be seriously tested n the US goal.

Into the 31st minute the US had their best chance. Brazil gave the ball away in midfield allowing Korbin Albert to feed Rose Lavelle but for a second time she couldn’t quite find connection with the ball.

On 39’ a Lavelle corner found the head of Horan who headed down but into Luciana’s arms. The US were now winning more of the midfield battles and starting to find space between the Brazilian defenders when they attacked at pace.

After a spell of pressure and the clock ticking into added time, Trinity Rodman was released wide on the right. She held the ball up in the corner before pulling the ball back to Emily Fox who hit a long ball across the box to Horan who looped her header back across the box and over the top of a stranded Luciana.

The US went in 1-0 up and came back out looking a yard sharper. Lavelle was replaced by Lynn Williams giving the US width on the right to add to the pace of Rodman who had now switched to the left.

The momentum had now drifted towards the US. On 57’ Morgan was lucky to stay on the pitch. Having picked up a yellow card minutes earlier she pushed Tarciane over needlessly in the Brazilian box. Rather than risk her any further, Kilgore immediately replaced her with Sophia Smith.

Smith’s impact was immediate. Latching on to a ball over the top her shot was blocked for a corner. Sam Coffey hit the corner to the back of the box looking for Horan but Brazil cleared.

As Brazil started to find their possession game again, they pushed the US back into defending deep within their box.

On 68’ Leal was dropped on the right hand side of the US box. Yasmim’s curled free kick was gathered by Naeher at her near post.

At the other end Korbin Albert’s free kick was cleared. The US did the same at the other end from a Brazil corner that flashed across the goal.

On 78’ it looked liked like Williams had put the US two-up, only to be ruled offside.

A minute later Midge Purce, on as a sub, hit her shot over from the edge of the box over the bar.

Into the last 10 minutes the Brazilians camped in and around the US box who were now relying on breakaway and pace for their attacks.

In the 85Debinha was brought down on the left of the box. Her free kick bounced around the US box before Geyse shot wide.

In the 89’ and the match moving into 5’ of added time, Julia Bianchi was brought down on the edge of the box by Jaedyn Shaw. Debinha lifted her free kick over the bar. Brazil kept pressing and twice more went close but it was not enough to stop the US running out 1-0 winners.

Brazil had out-shot the US 12-7 and out-passed them 379 to 296, but when it really mattered the US had delivered.

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