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USWNT vs. Portugal: U.S. survives sloppy, scoreless draw to advance

USWNT forward Lynn Williams goes up for a header against Portugal's Tatiana Pinto and Diana Gomes in the World Cup group-stage finale for both teams. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team secured its place in the knockout stage with a 0-0 draw, but the disorganized and disinterested performance failed to inspire confidence in the direction of the team.

With the Netherlands’ 7-0 win against Vietnam, the Dutch side takes the top spot in Group E and the easier route through the bracket. The USWNT finishes as runner-up with just four points, its lowest-ever point total for a World Cup group stage. The Group G winner (likely Sweden) awaits in the Round of 16 at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

The USWNT only has failed to win back-to-back Olympic and World Cup tournaments in 2000 and 2003. But if the two-time defending World Cup champions fail to make adjustments before the knockout stage, history could repeat.

FINAL: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

While the USWNT advances to the knockout stage with the draw, the two-time defending champions cannot be happy with their performance.

Portugal won the possession battle, holding the ball for 56% of the match, but finished with no shots on goal. The USWNT outshot its opponent 17-6 and had six shots on target but did not put any of them in the net.

90+1′: Portugal’s Ana Capeta hits shot off post

Capeta came off the bench in the 89th minute for Portugal and quickly created an opportunity for her team. Her shot went past USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher but bounced off the post, the first of a few threats for Portugal in stoppage time.

84′: Portugal keeper stops another Alex Morgan shot

The 34-year-old striker got another shot on goal, but Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Just before this chance, Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett came off the bench for Lynn Williams and Lindsey Horan.

82′: Naomi Girma receives yellow card

The foul resulted in a free kick for Portugal from 35 yards out, but the USWNT escaped the ensuing scramble in the box.

Portugal’s Diana Gomes picked up her own yellow card several minutes earlier.

61′: Megan Rapinoe replaces Sophia Smith

The USWNT turned to the three-time World Cup veteran to inject some energy off the bench. Smith, who scored a brace against Vietnam, had played in every minute of the tournament for the USWNT to this point.

Minutes later, Portugal replaced its own young star in Kika Nazareth with Andreia Jacinto.

53′: Portugal defender clears Alex Morgan shot

Morgan collects a pass from Lindsey Horan, then maneuvers around the Portugal goalkeeper, but her low shot is cleared by Portugal defender Diana Gomes. The USWNT failed to capitalize on the ensuing corner kick.

Portugal’s Carole Costa picked up a yellow card for a foul on Morgan just a few minutes later.

52′: Sophia Smith receives yellow card

The USWNT forward made a play for the ball, but she caught Portugal’s Diana Silva in the face with her cleat.

48′: Rose Lavelle sends shot over crossbar

Meanwhile, the fire alarm was blaring in the stadium, but spectators remained in their seats at Eden Park. A sprinkler was malfunctioning, which led to the false alarm, FIFA reported.

46′: No halftime substitutions for the USWNT

To start the second half, the USWNT continued with the same lineup it utilized throughout the first half, to the chagrin of many fans and pundits.

HALF: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

Lynn Williams was the best of USWNT attack in the first half after coming into the match on fresh legs, but overall the USWNT looked disjointed. While the USWNT trailed at halftime against the Netherlands, this tie scoreline feels more disheartening — especially when compared to the Dutch team’s dominance against Vietnam in the other Group E finale.

The Netherlands took a 5-0 lead against Vietnam in the first half. If that scoreline holds, the USWNT would need to beat Portugal by three goals to take first place in group. A runner-up finish means a more difficult path through the knockout stage, starting with a likely matchup with Sweden in the Round of 16.

39′: Rose Lavelle receives yellow card, would miss next match

In her first start of the tournament, Lavelle receives a yellow card for a hard tackle of Portugal’s Dolores Silva. The 28-year-old midfielder also received a yellow card against the Netherlands, which means she would miss the USWNT’s potential Round of 16 match.

27′: Lynn Williams gets back-to-back shots

After Alex Morgan worked the ball in from the left baseline, Williams managed two shots in quick succession. Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira blocked the first, while the second sailed up and over the crossbar.

15′: Jessica Silva gets chance for Portugal

Jessica Silva took an open shot from outside the penalty area for Portugal, but the ball went wide.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands raced out to a 4-0 lead against already eliminated Vietnam. The USWNT claimed a 3-0 win against Vietnam to open the tournament, so even a U.S. win over Portugal could mean just second place in the group (and a tougher road through the knockout stage) based on goal differential.

3′: Lynn Williams creates early opportunity

In her first minutes of the tournament, Williams sent a low cross toward Alex Morgan from the right side. Morgan managed a shot, but it deflected off a Portugal defender and out of bounds.

Williams got her head on Rose Lavelle’s ensuing corner kick, but goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Starting XI: Rose Lavelle gets her first start

  • United States
    • Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher
    • Defenders: Crystal Dunn Julie Ertz, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox
    • Midfielders: Andi Sullivan, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle
    • Forwards: Lynn Williams, Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith
  • Portugal
    • Goalkeeper: Inês Pereira
    • Defenders: Catarina Amado, Carole Costa, Diana Gomes, Ana Borges
    • Midfielders: Andreia Norton, Dolores Silva, Kika Nazareth, Tatiana Pinto
    • Forwards: Diana Silva, Jéssica Silva

No one is quite as adept at controlling the USWNT’s creativity as Lavelle, as Just Women’s Sports soccer writer Claire Watkins noted in her lineup prediction, and the midfielder gets her first start of the tournament. Williams replaces Trinity Rodman on the forward line, another change from the starting lineup deployed by head coach Vlatko Andonovski in the first two group-stage matches.

What to know about Portugal

  • Portugal is playing in its first World Cup. The World Cup debutantes lost 1-0 to the Netherlands to start the tournament but bested Vietnam 2-0 on July 27.
  • Despite the lack of World Cup experience, seven players had 100 or more international caps heading into the tournament.
  • By reaching the group-stage finale with a chance to advance, Portugal already has accomplished one of its goals, but the team is not satisfied. “We must look at ourselves and see the potential and talent we have, we must believe,” rising star Kika Nazareth said ahead of the tournament. “I am confident. If we make it through the group stage, the goal is to win everything.”

What to know about the USWNT

  • Rose Lavelle has been building up her minutes limit through the first two group-stage matches, which could allow her to play a full 90 against Portugal.
  • Julie Ertz has looked at home at center-back, a position she hasn’t played regularly since transitioning to defensive midfield in 2017.
  • Tobin Heath, who won the 2015 and 2019 titles with the USWNT, questioned head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision not to bring in forward Lynn Williams as a substitute against the Netherlands. “I think there were a couple different adjustments that could’ve been made to the team to get us that second goal,” Heath said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why that game had to end 1-1.”

When and how to watch

  • Tuesday, Aug. 1 — 3 a.m. ET (Fox, Peacock, Telemundo)
    • United States vs. Portugal (Wellington Regional)

The USWNT is playing its last of three group-stage matches at the World Cup. After starting the tournament with a 3-0 win over Vietnam and then a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, the two-time defending champions will close out the group stage against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The group-stage finale is available to watch on Fox and Telemundo. It also can be streamed on the Fox Sports app and on Peacock. The Netherlands will face Vietnam at the same time in the other Group E finale.