The U.S. women's soccer team is miles away from the men's team in expectations. When Landon Donovan and company lose 1-0 to a international powerhouse, the nation finds hope for the future and moves on to football. The women's team is the international powerhouse.
In the second-most important women's soccer tournament, the U.S. lost the 2012 Algarve Cup in a similar fashion to last summer's World Cup final in a 1-0 defeat by Japan.
Despite tearing through their opening two games by a combined score of 7-1 in wins over Norway and Denmark, Abby Wambach's crew could not net a single goal against the foes that broke their hearts in one of the best women's soccer games in history last year.
What can we take out of the Algarve Cup for U.S. women's soccer down the road?
Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are the best duo in women's soccer
After being knocked out and into the third-place game against Sweden, Alex Morgan scored a hat trick against the fifth-ranked squad in a 4-0 drubbing.
Morgan also added two goals against Denmark in the Algarve Cup opener, which they won handily by the score of 5-0.
Abby Wambach has been the USWNT's best player for years, but took over the spotlight in the 2011 World Cup when the whole world was watching for the first time since the days of Mia Hamm. Unfortunately for Wambach, she's 31 years old and reaching the age of retirement in soccer.
Hamm retired at the age of 32.
The question begging to be asked is whether or not Wambach will be in top form when the 2015 World Cup rolls around. She will be 35 years old and potentially on the cusp of breaking Hamm's all-time goals record of 158 (Wambach is currently at 134).
Wambach scored three goals at this year's Algarve Cup.
With their 4-4-2 formation, Wambach and Morgan have been lethal up top and should continue to do so as long as both stars are on the pitch.
Hope Solo and the defense are asserting their dominance
As Hope Solo reached idol status in America during and after the women's World Cup, she was better known for her looks than for her goalkeeping ability, which was questionable in their defeat to Japan in the final.
In the Algarve Cup, however, Solo let up only two goals in four games.
One was against Norway, but it came in the final seconds of a game that was already 2-nil and the game expired as soon as the ball went in the net.
The other came in the loss to Japan in the 84th minute. However, holding Japan to just one goal should be enough for the U.S. to pull out a victory with their stellar offense.
Inconsistent play needs to end
Women's soccer is getting to a point where it's getting very top-heavy and the top few teams should be able to take care of anyone else on the pitch.
As stellar as their 4-0 victory over fifth-ranked Sweden was, they also barely pulled out a 2-1 win over Norway, who is far worse than the U.S. team.
They took down Denmark 5-0, as they should have, but them and Norway are even opponents and they should be handling both of them, not just one.
Japan should supplant them as No. 1 in the world
As big as the World Cup is, one game in it shouldn't always sway who is ranked No. 1 in the FIFA rankings.
It didn't after the 2011 Cup final, as USA still stands at No. 1 and Japan is back at No. 3. The perennial powerhouse in women's soccer, the U.S. has now lost two straight games to Japan on the biggest two stages of the sport.
They weren't even able to take it into extra time in this one.
They couldn't even score one goal.
Wambach's late heroics in the Cup final last summer, scoring in the final minute to push the U.S. to extra time, was magical and Americans were able to rest easy knowing they had played in one of the best games in the sport's history.
Although, there was nothing magical or pretty about their latest defeat to the Japanese.
The U.S. will have their chance to redeem themselves. But after these two showings, FIFA has to switch it up.
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