For a moment, it looked like it might be a vintage U.S. women’s national team result.
A cross from Alex Morgan. Megan Rapinoe streaking to the net. A well-placed shot. A goal. A celebration.
After going down 1-0 to Germany, the United States tied things up with a goal from one veteran to another. Morgan and Rapinoe: two names soccer fans have become accustomed to hearing.
Something they aren’t accustomed to? The collapse that happened four minutes after Rapinoe tied things up.
The goal at the 84th minute seemed enough for the U.S. to end the contest with a tie and prevent a three-game losing streak — something the team hadn’t experienced since 1993.
Instead, at the 89-minute mark, it was Germany that celebrated. And when the final whistle blew, the Americans had broken a streak they never wanted to see in the first place. On Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Germany came away with a 2-1 victory, and the USWNT left with a lot of unanswered questions.
Here’s one of those questions: What happened?
A foul at midfield led to a quick free kick from Germany. It sailed to the feet of Jule Brand, who took a touch that forced goaltender Casey Murphy to challenge. When Murphy dove, it left a wide-open goal and no U.S. defenders to back her up. Germany’s Paulina Krumbiegel then tapped it home for the game-winning goal at the 89th minute.
Germany is back on top 2-1 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/1Lx4lxoKuw— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 11, 2022
Germany is back on top 2-1 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/1Lx4lxoKuw
It was a dramatic moment that pointed to a larger, more concerning trend. In the toughest moments on Thursday, the USWNT lacked poise and composure. A USWNT that can’t seem to handle the pressure isn’t a concept the soccer world has encountered for many, many years.
And the pressure is about to build, as the team plays Germany again on Sunday in the final friendly on the 2022 calendar. After losing an unprecedented three in a row, that game has the feel of a must-win.
But coach Vlatko Andonovski, in his comments after the game, didn’t seem to see a lack of poise or an inability to finish in key moments from his team. Instead, he chalked it up to bad luck.
“We didn’t see the final touch. That is what we were missing,” he said. “Even though I do want to say that we were a little bit unlucky a couple of times. I think Lindsey (Horan) hit the crossbar, hit the post. So that was positive, but not quite good enough to make a difference.”
Horan did have two shots narrowly miss after connecting with metal instead of net. And she wasn’t the only one whose quality opportunities came up short. The United States had 18 shots but finished with just one goal.
🇺🇸 @LindseyHoran with a ✂️ kick 🤯 pic.twitter.com/EWggvYUk7W— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 11, 2022
🇺🇸 @LindseyHoran with a ✂️ kick 🤯 pic.twitter.com/EWggvYUk7W
Andonovski also cited the officiating as a factor that worked against his team Thursday. Germany was assessed 13 fouls in the game, while the U.S. was whistled for seven, and there were no yellow or red cards handed out.
“I think the referees took some things away from us,” he said. “I don’t want to comment a lot on it, but I feel like the game was a little bit too much for them.”
The USWNT had eight corner kicks in the game, but they were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
Despite the three-game slide, the multiple goals given up in each contest and just two scores in the last three games, Andonovski isn’t worried. He’d like to see more goals, he admits, but the coach remained positive following Thursday’s defeat.
“I don’t want to say I’m concerned, because I’m not,” he said. “I trust these players. I believe that these players are capable of scoring goals … I’m not concerned, but I for sure wanted to score more goals.”
In the last month, the USWNT has lost to top-ranked European clubs England, Spain and Germany. They dropped a home contest for the first time in over five years. And in the big moments, like the final minutes of Thursday’s match, they faded away, failing to capitalize when they needed to.
These matches are friendlies, yes. But given the current set of circumstances and the mounting pressure, Sunday’s game against Germany is about to be a lot less friendly, and a lot more of a must-win.
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.