USA Beats Germany in 2018 Women's Soccer Friendly Behind Megan Rapinoe Goal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2018

United States forward Megan Rapinoe (15) celebrates her goal against  Germany with teammates midfielder Lindsey Horan (9) and forward Alex Morgan (13) during the first half of their SheBelieves Cup match  at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, March 1, 2018.  / AFP PHOTO / Paul Vernon        (Photo credit should read PAUL VERNON/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL VERNON/Getty Images

The United States earned a 1-0 win over Germany in its opening game of the 2018 SheBelieves Cup at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe scored the only goal in the 17th minute to seal the victory.

Thursday's game represented a stern test for the United States' back four. Kelley O'Hara has been a stalwart for the United States women's national team for nearly a decade, but the trio of Taylor Smith, Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper had combined for only 23 international caps. Davidson was making just her second appearance for the national team.

Graham Hayes of espnW noted the gulf in experience between the defense and the other areas of the pitch for the United States:

Sara Dabritz nearly put the U.S. back line to the sword in the 16th minute. The German midfielder had time and space inside the 18-yard box to get a shot on goal, but she mishit the ball and sent it well wide of the frame.

The United States responded by going ahead 1-0 through Rapinoe. The goal typified route one soccer, as goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher kicked the ball ahead to Alex Morgan, who headed it up to Rapinoe. Rapinoe's first touch was a left-footed shot that dipped under German goalkeeper Almuth Schult.

Only eight seconds elapsed between Naeher's kick and the ball crossing the goal line. U.S. Soccer shared a replay of the goal:

U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who missed the game due to a left foot injury, celebrated on Twitter:

Although the United States took a one-goal lead into the dressing room at halftime, the score could've easily looked different. In addition to Dabritz's miss, Germany nearly equalized through O'Hara. The 29-year-old went to make a challenge and inadvertently knocked the ball into the path of her own net. The ball bounced off the left post.

American Soccer Now's John D. Halloran wasn't impressed by the USWNT's first-half performance:

Schult saved a shot from Carli Lloyd in the 54th minute, which represented the United States' best scoring chance of the second half.

The cold, windy conditions in Columbus appeared to have an impact on both teams, as neither side enjoyed significant stretches of possession. The wind in particular made it difficult for the players to track the ball on aerial passes.

Given the circumstances, coach Jill Ellis will almost certainly be happy to walk away with the result. The U.S. kept a clean sheet against the No. 2 team in the FIFA ranking.

The United States will play France in Harrison, New Jersey, on Sunday in its next match of the tournament before closing out the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday against England in Orlando, Florida.

The U.S. will be careful to avoid a repeat of last year's SheBelieves Cup. The USWNT beat Germany to start the tournament before losing 1-0 to England and 3-0 to France. The United States finished last on goal differential.

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