The United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s 100-game unbeaten streak on American soil was in jeopardy during the final minutes of Wednesday night’s Victory Tour match against Brazil played in front of 23,603 spectators at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. But with Team USA trailing, 1-0, in the 85th minute — Monica scored for Brazil off a corner kick three minutes into the contest — who better to save the day than Carli Lloyd?
The New Jersey native, who has become arguably the USWNT’s biggest scoring threat at the moment, finished a great ball into the box by defender Meghan Klingenberg in the 85th minute to the tie the game at 1-1, which was the final score. Lloyd’s team-high 17th goal of the season, a calendar year career-best for the stalwart midfielder, helped the U.S. extend its undefeated streak at home to 101 games. The last time the Americans lost in this country was on Nov. 6, 2004, to Denmark.
Wednesday’s game was the fifth of the 2015 World Cup champion USWNT’s 10-game victory tour but Marta-led Brazil was the first opponent able to provide any resistance. Monica’s third-minute goal was the earliest conceded by the U.S. in 2015 and the team’s halftime deficit was its first in 18 games.
While the USWNT leads its head-to-head with Brazil, 25-3-4, the U.S. has suffered some heart-wrenching defeats to the Brazilians. And victories over the fast and athletic squad never come easy. Wednesday’s challenge was, therefore, no surprise. And though the Victory Tour is a celebration of the U.S. as the world champion, and fans have surely relished in the Americans’ dominance through the first four games, Wednesday was a much-needed reality check for the USWNT as it shifts its focus to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It was announced in August that the U.S. will host the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in February. Eight teams, from North and Central America and the Caribbean will compete for two Olympic slots.
The USWNT was on its heels for the majority of Wednesday’s game. But it was a good test for the Americans, who bid an emotional farewell to veteran Shannon Boxx after the draw and will see off Lauren Holiday and Lori Chalupny on Sunday. But, per its reputation, the USWNT responded when it needed to most. And the contest featured positive performances from some younger players, such as 2015 National Women’s Soccer League Golden Boot winner Crystal Dunn, who just missed the summer’s World Cup roster but whose speed and athleticism are sure to be integral to the team’s success moving forward.
The U.S. and Brazil will meet once more, Sunday afternoon at the Orlando Citrus Bowl (FOX Sports 1, 2:30 p.m. ET) and it is likely to feature a somewhat different lineup as USWNT coach Jill Ellis continues to gauge players and combinations as a new generation begins to make its way onto the senior international scene.
“As players on this team, you always want to grow the game and to see the game growing, it shows that we’re doing the right thing,” Boxx told FOX Soccer’s Laura Vecsey. “You watch these young players coming onto this team and you know they’re scared and nervous and we’ve all felt that, we’ve all done that. They’re going through the same process we all did so you feel for that. But we’re not going to show them any leniency either because they’re trying to win our jobs. But knowing I’m retiring, it’s really fun to see these new players and see how good they are.”
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Spark Sports Analyst