Before head coach Vlatko Andonovski chose to speak about the performance of the United States women’s national team, or whether he disagreed with the replay review that cost a goal to his team and an opportunity to come away with a draw instead of a 2-1 losshe insisted on addressing the occasion.
The USWNT and England had been looking forward to Friday’s match at Wembley Stadium for months, which sold out in less than a day and tied the defending European (England) and World champions ( United States). It was to be a game to continue – perhaps even accelerate – the rapid growth of women’s football around the world.
And then, in the very week that the game was supposed to take place, US Soccer released the findings of a year-long investigation into player abuse in the NWSL, which was even cruder and more pervasive than it seems. had imagined, and USWNT vs. Lionesses became something of a sequel.
The England and USA teams joined in a pre-match gesture, rallying behind a banner stating ‘Protect the Players’.
“It was a very special moment, actually, when the players got together and had the banner in front of them,” Andonovski said. “It gave me goosebumps, and to see the support from the stands who applauded that moment, I thought it was amazing. It was a statement. It was a statement that we have to stop sexual violence, and again the players have done an amazing job using this game and this event as a platform to fight against that.
Protect the players.
We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse 🤝 pic.twitter.com/8FTBvnaXFe
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) October 7, 2022
Earlier in the week, defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Alana Cook were clearly in pain on a conference call to discuss the game. Forward Megan Rapinoe showed her justified outrage at the situation when she met the media on Thursday.
“This week has been a little harder to compartmentalize, of course,” Rapinoe said. “I think the Yates report was devastating in every way, even when you know some of the information. Just reading it clearly and having it spelled out like that is just awful.
Although it was entertaining for periods, it wasn’t the best football game. But that’s hard to achieve when the end result matters so little. England won their 15th game in a row and USA saw their winning streak come to an end at 13, but there was no trophy to be won, and only a dominant performance by one side or the other. either could have altered the chemistry of their competition.
England now know they can beat the Americans? Do Americans now have reason to fear the Lionesses? Please. They met in the semi-finals of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and victory for the United States was only assured at the final whistle. Everyone already knew that they were two great teams.
“It was a big event, a big event for women’s football,” Andonovski told reporters. after USA lost 2-1. “That game was a big game, but it wasn’t a World Cup final. We’ve seen World Cup finals, a lot of people show up. But we’ve never seen such a supportive friendly game. I thought tonight of the fans, they came to support the show of these two teams, they made a statement.
USA didn’t look so good when Emily Fox, who was struggling to keep the left-back position as Crystal Dunn returned from maternity leave to try to take it back, ventured too far into the field without following the talented Englishwoman Beth Mead. When the ball was played past Fox, Mead was able to collect it and drive along the touchline before unleashing a cross that USA defender Alana Cook failed to clear in front of goal. It became an easy chance and an easy goal for Lauren Hemp.
USA tied it, however, when Lindsey Horan rushed in a challenge and forced the ball towards striker Sophia Smith, who accepted the chance and slammed her shot into the net. It was the only goal she scored, but she destabilized the English defenders all evening.
What followed were some curious VAR decisions which produced an England victory. Hailie Mace, who replaced Fox when she was injured, used a high kick to try to clear the ball out of the box. The toe of his boot caught England star Lucy Bronze in the face. Thus, the Lionesses got a penalty for what hadn’t even been a scoring chance. And then a replay review decided Smith was offside on a brilliant shot that resulted in a Trinity Rodman goal. If Smith was on the outside, it was at the edge of a single loose thread hanging from his uniform top.
“I thought Soph was very good,” Andonovski said. “It looks like she’s made a name for herself, but you can’t forget she’s 21. I don’t know if she has 20 caps in the national team. To step into an environment like this to make a difference… It just shows the potential she has. But we haven’t seen the best of her. She is actually 22 now and has 24 caps. He was close.
DECOURCY: USWNT player ratings vs England
When scheduling the friendly, Andonovski had hoped his side would get the best possible test ahead of the World Cup, with plenty of time left to address any concerns that developed.
He saw that American women could deal with injuries before the game and the changes needed as they went. And he was reminded, once again, as he has been too often, that his players can deliver on the pitch despite major issues like the fight for equal pay and the pervasive abuse suffered by players in women’s football.
“Obviously it’s been an extremely difficult week for everyone,” Andonovski said. “I’m proud that the players are even on the pitch to play his game. It wasn’t easy. For some who were in the environment to see and experience all they experienced, I applaud their bravery and fearless mentality. Once again, they have shown that nothing can stop them from playing the game they love.”