The United States breathed a sigh of relief at the Under-20 Women’s World Cup on Friday night as an 82nd-minute Lindsay Horan goal beat Brazil 1-0 in their second group stage game. Having lost the first 2-0 to Germany on Tuesday, the Americans badly wanted some points to avoid needing the win over China as well as help from Germany against Brazil in the final games of group play on Tuesday.
The narrow result certainly didn’t come easily. It took all of 172 minutes of their campaign to repeat as world champions and win a third edition out of four to finally break the spell and score a goal. And what an important goal it was. For things were bleak up until that point.
For a second straight game, the USA looked uninspired. As a whole, they lacked energy, initiative and pace. It all looked disjointed and devoid of direction. And it was a late push that finally saved them.
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By and large, Brazil controlled the ball in its own half and the USA had trouble getting it off them. When they did, they found it hard to connect passes for any kind of meaningful attack. It was Brazil that was dangerous early on, in fact. Margaret Purce had to run Patricia off the ball in the American box. And then Christina Gibbons saved off her own line when Carol headed a Brazilian corner to the far post. The defender blocked it with her knee, whereupon the ball bounced off her arm. But no call was made, and rightly so.
When the Brazilians did surrender the ball, they quickly packed in tightly, frustrating the Americans to no end. It wasn’t until extra time in the first half that the Americans got a chance. Taylor Racioppi, who had come on for Mallory Pugh when she rolled her ankle on a savage tackle from Djenifer, saw a ball fall to her when that same Djenifer didn’t clear it right. But her shot was blocked.
The Americans made a quick start to the second half. The excellent Purce strode upfield and hit her shot off the crossbar. But nobody was there to race to the rebound. Racioppi then made a good cut towards the near post on a cross but headed her open look off target.
Thereafter, Brazil resumed hogging the ball and began pushing higher up. They never produced any real chances, but they didn’t allow the Americans many either. Summer Green released Rose Lavelle with a shrewd ball half-way through the second act. But her finish went right at Leticia and Horan couldn’t control the rebound to get the shot off.
That was typical for Horan on the night. The USA’s star striker and only professional seemed out of synch with her teammates and wasn’t clinical when she did get looks â much like she had been against Germany.
But in a late push, before the Americans sat in and rode out the game, Horan made the difference. Green willed her through two defenders on the right flank, gamely scrapping her way past them, and cut her pass back for Horan, who cleanly slotted it home.
That play and the three points it yielded the Americans were the entirety of the positive points that could be reported from the game. The USA are still very much alive. But they have much improving to do if they’re going to make a deep run in this tournament. Or perhaps even survive the group stage.