No matter the coach, the United States’ dominance in international women’s soccer just continues to grow. Behind two goals from forward Alex Morgan, the United States captured its third Algarve Cup in four years on Wednesday, defeating Germany, 2-0, in Portugal.
Morgan scored in the 13th and 34th minutes, giving the United States a lead it would never relinquish. The victory gives the United States its 29th consecutive match without a loss, a streak that stretches back to the 2012 Algarve Cup.
It also came despite a massive state of turnover surrounding the team. Heading into the Algarve Cup, many pundits thought this would be the perfect time for a side like Germany to pounce on a slightly weakened United States team. But, alas, the United States continued to do its best T-Pain impression because all the team does is win.
What can we take away from the latest triumph for the USWNT? Here is a complete breakdown of the biggest notes following Wednesday’s action.
Alex Morgan: Good at Soccer
Just 23 years old, Alex Morgan continues to stake her claim as the world's preeminent goalscorer. She finished the Algarve Cup with a relatively pedestrian (for her) three goals, but two of those came in the most important match.
Morgan gave the United States a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute after a failed clear by Germany’s Josephine Henning. After Morgan knocked the ball through the net, the Team USA Twitter feed sent out a funny coincidence regarding the star forward’s goal:
U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt
FYI: Alex Morgan (#13) scored in the 13th minute on March 13 of 2013. #BabyHorse13 has got to trend on Twitter, right?2013-3-13 17:19:37
With that said, hopefully you all have 13 somewhere on your Powerball ticket. That goal gave the United States a commanding early lead, but Morgan was nowhere close to being done. Taking advantage of a botched play by Germany’s defense and goalkeeper, Morgan scored another goal in the 34th minute, knocking an easy shot into an empty net.
From there, the United States essentially skated to victory. Morgan walked away with her second golden boot at the Algarve Cup, the first coming in 2011, and finished the tournament with three goals and four assists.
Wednesday’s match will undoubtedly give Morgan an early leg up in the Ballon d’Or voting. She finished third in the voting last season behind teammate Abby Wambach, who was used as a substitute in Wednesday’s match.
Though Wambach is on the downslope of her career, Morgan is the beacon of light shining down upon United States women’s soccer—now and into the future.
USWNT is Going to be Just Fine With Tom Sermanni at the Helm
When Pia Sundhage surprisingly decided to retire this past September after an illustrious career, many questioned whether anyone would be able to fit in her legendary footsteps. Jillian Ellis did a fantastic job during her time as interim manager, leading the United States to five wins, two ties and zero defeats.
That said, Ellis was never going to take over long term. The United States needed someone with enough clout to dominate not just in the interim, but going forward as well. They found Australian national team coach Tom Sermanni looking for a change, and tabbed him to fill Sundhage’s massive shoes.
In his first big-time event at the helm, it’s hard to see things possibly going any better. Rampaging through the field with relative ease, the United States finished with a goal differential of plus-10 en route to improving Sermanni’s overall record to four wins, one draw and (again) zero losses.
Perhaps most importantly, the United States continues to run like a well-oiled machine. Sundhage left the talent cupboard full and now the U.S. has not been defeated in 29 matches—an astounding feat considering how much turnover there has been of late.
If early results are any indication, it looks like that streak will be doing just fine with Sermanni at the helm.
The United States Can Survive Hope Solo’s Absence
Speaking of turnover, the United States kept its roll going despite the absence of all-world goalkeeper Hope Solo. The 31-year-old Solo had to miss this year’s Algarve Cup due to wrist surgery, which is expected to keep her out three to four months. Solo was the driving force behind many of the United States’ victories in the 2012 Summer Olympics, as she gave up only six goals and had three clean sheets en route to a gold medal.
That said, her backup doesn’t look too shabby either. Backup goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was dominant throughout much of the Algarve Cup—especially in the final against Germany. She made some beautiful saves on tough German shots and looked comfortable around the net, communicating with teammates well throughout the match.
Going forward, the United States will need more performances like that from Barnhart. They have a rematch against their German rivals at Offenbach coming up on April 5, and follow that up with a trip to the Netherlands four days later. Though international friendlies are ultimately meaningless in the long term, the United States’ unbeaten streak has become a massive source of pride.
Morgan, Wambach and Co. will not want to come up on the short end anytime soon—and especially not to Germany. With Jill Loyden also on the mend, the onus will be on Barnhart to continue her stellar play.
Though she’s not as consistently stellar as Solo or Loyden, Barnhart made it clear she is still a strong force going forward.