USA ties Netherlands in World Cup, but it’s not over for USWNT

USA ties Netherlands in World Cup, but it's not over for USWNT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The road to a third consecutive World Cup title was never going to be a carefree exercise for the U.S. women’s national soccer team. At some point — maybe at multiple points — during this four-week campaign in Oceania, the top-ranked Americans would have to confront rare moments of adversity.

The first test came on a cold Thursday afternoon (Wednesday night Eastern time) in their second match, a rematch of the 2019 final against the Netherlands, in a testy Group E encounter. The Dutch went ahead early, but a confrontation early in the second half lit a fire under U.S. captain Lindsey Horan, who responded seconds later with a tying header as the sides settled for a 1-1 draw.

The Americans (1-0-1, four points) remained atop the group standings, even with the Netherlands (1-0-1) on points but ahead in the first tiebreaker, which is goal differential.

Group play will conclude Tuesday with the United States facing Portugal and the Netherlands playing Vietnam. Two teams will advance, but the first-place finisher will gain preferable seeding in the round of 16.

World Cup tiebreakers and advancement scenarios, explained

“I think the fact that this team fought back is a little bit of that mentality that we needed into this tournament, and I think it’s just a little unfortunate that now first place in this group is up for grabs, but we’re going to do everything we can this next game,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said.

Horan’s goal, her second of the tournament, came in the 62nd minute in front of a crowd 27,312, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

It came as things grew heated between the 2019 World Cup finalists.

As the second half transpired, the Netherlands committed greater effort into the defensive work. The Americans labored to create space. When in danger, the Dutch turned physical. Danielle van de Donk took out Horan with a body blow, an incident that required medical attention.

The testiness between the two — who are teammates at French club Olympique Lyonnais — continued as the United States set up for an ensuing corner kick. Referee Yoshimi Yamashita spoke to both players. Horan gestured in anger. Teammates calmed her down.

Rose Lavelle served the corner kick. Horan made a diagonal run toward the flight of the ball. She timed her leap perfectly and sent an angled header into the near side for the 29th goal of her international career.

“I don’t think you ever want to get me mad,” Horan said. “Because I don’t react in a good way. Usually I just want something more. I want to win more; I want to score more; I want to do more for my team.”

This was the fourth meeting over four years in an increasingly intense rivalry. The stretch began with the 2019 final in France, won by the United States, 2-0, followed by a U.S. victory in a friendly in the Netherlands and an 2021 Olympic quarterfinal, won by the Americans in a shootout.

The setting Thursday was the Wellington Harbor waterfront, at a multipurpose regional stadium known as the “Cake Tin” because of its round, metallic design. Fans streamed along the piers from downtown hotels to the venue, where the 51-degree temperature and brisk breeze belied the bright sunshine.

U.S. fans were out in force again, but the Dutch support was unmistakable with orange flags whipping in the wind.

U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski stuck with the same lineup as in the opener, a bit of a surprise considering midfielder Lavelle seemed ready for a longer run after returning from a knee injury with a second-half appearance against Vietnam. Instead, Savannah DeMelo remained in an attacking role alongside Horan.

The other question was whether Trinity Rodman would retain her place on the wing, ahead of Lynn Williams, Alyssa Thompson and Megan Rapinoe. Like with DeMelo, though, Andonovski was happy with Rodman’s impact in the opener.

Netherlands Coach Andries Jonker made one major change, replacing striker Lineth Beerensteyn, who injured an ankle in the waning moments of the 1-0 victory over Portugal.

The Americans were buzzing with energy and ambition from the start but lacked a killer final pass or serious threat on goal.

The Dutch began to gain traction in transition, finding space between the U.S. lines. The breakthrough came in the 17th minute.

With central work, Lieke Martens led the push. She touched the ball wide to Victoria Pelova overlapping on the right side. Crystal Dunn slipped. Dunn recovered, stabbing the pass back to Pelova, who set up Jill Roord for a 17-yard effort that beat Alyssa Naeher to the far corner.

For the first time since the 2011 quarterfinals, the United States trailed in a World Cup match.

Later, Dominque Janssen’s 20-yard volley dipped just beyond the crossbar. The rest of the half, though, belonged to the Americans, who attacked with vigor and commitment but continued to lack a final product in the penalty area. The Dutch, though, deserved credit for remaining resolute in the face of adversity, blocking crosses and closing channels.

As intermission neared, the Americans grew frustrated with both their play and the Dutch tactics, which disrupted their attempts to build rhythm.

At the start of the second half, Andonovski turned to Lavelle in place of DeMelo. When healthy, Lavelle is an automatic starter. But her career has been pocked with injuries, and after hurting a knee in an April friendly against Ireland, she remained idle until the World Cup opener.

Minutes after entering, she received a yellow card for an unbecoming challenge.

Five minutes later, Rodman set up Morgan in the clear for a touch past goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar, but Morgan had been a step offside. U.S. momentum faded. The Dutch saw an opportunity to regain the lead. Defender Julie Ertz came to the U.S. rescue in the 80th minute, blocking a shot in the heart of the box. Rodman had a chance two minutes later, but her shot curled wide of the far post. Martens deflected Sophia Smith’s blast just wide of the left post.

Andonovski said afterward he wants to see more of what his team showed in the second 45 minutes against the Dutch on Tuesday against Portugal.

“The baseline is the second half of this game,” the coach said. “And then as hopefully we move forward, we’re going to see a better and better U.S. team.”

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