EAST HARTFORD – The United States women’s national soccer team showed some poise under pressure Thursday night at Rentschler Field. Facing France, the No. 4 ranked team in the world, the Americans twice erased one-goal deficits and came up with a key stop with about three minutes left to battle to a 2-2 tie with the visiting French.
Forward Alex Morgan scored twice for the Americans, including a second goal with five minutes left in the game. Trailing by one, American Tobin Heath took the quick throw-in from the left side to Morgan, who weaved her way past two French defenders and ripped a shot at France goalie Sarah Bouhaddi. The goalie got a foot on the shot but it wasn’t enough to prevent Morgan’s shot from bouncing into the net.
Then, U.S. goalie Ashlyn Harris made a big stop with about two minutes remaining. France’s Louisa Necib played a perfect lead pass toward Gaetane Thiney in the middle of the box giving her a one-on-one chance. Harris made an aggressive rush to stop Thiney’s shot and collided with the French forward. It took some time for Harris to recover, but the sacrifice disrupted the play and preserved the tie.
“I thought it was a great show of character tonight and obviously Alex is coming back (into form),” U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis said. “In the second half we stepped it up a bit and solved a few things, but France is a great opponent. I was really pleased with some of the adjustments and some of the things that we did and our transition I thought was very good tonight.”
The Americans were playing without starting goalie Hope Solo, who missed the contest due to a family commitment and all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach (167 international goals), who hurt her knee in a National Women’s Soccer League game earlier this month.
France took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute on a penalty kick. France’s Elodie Thomis chipped the ball over the American defense toward the left side of the box.
France playmaker Louisa Necib and USA goalie Ashlyn Harris made a dash toward the corner of the box. Harris slid to deflect the ball away, but she was ruled to have made contact with Necib’s leg, resulting in a penalty. Necib shot down the middle as Harris guessed to her right to give France the lead.
Morgan helped the Americans tie the game early in the second half. Playing in just her second match this year, Morgan found her scoring touch and looked to be fully recovered from an ankle injury that kept her out for seventh months.
Midfielder Allie Long played threaded a pass to Morgan in the middle of the field. Morgan made space at the top of the penalty area and drilled a left-footed strike from 25 yards out that deflected off the inside of the left post and past France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
Morgan then jumped over the signboards behind the goal to celebrate with the fans. It was Morgan’s first goal of the year.
“I wanted to do something special, actually,” Morgan said of her celebration with the fans. “I thought about crying in the moment but it was still early in the game, no time for that. I just wanted to give appreciation to the American Outlaws for being here and coming out here tonight.”
The celebration was more memorable than the goal. “To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of it,” she said. “I just remember turning and seeing the far post open. I hit it as well as I could have and from there and I felt so happy.”
France took a 2-1 lead in the 68th minute when Amandine Henry fired a shot inside the right post that deflected off an American defender. France has a good opportunity to extend its lead about eight minutes later but Harris made a diving save on a shot from Eugenie Le Sommer to keep the deficit to just one goal.
“We were just a little tight in the first half and not really finding the spaces in between our lines and the pockets,” American defender Christie Rampone said. “I think in the second half we opened up our shape a little bit and found those seams. And also Alex, when she came in, she stretched them a little bit so that allowed us to find the pockets underneath and connect a little bit more. Our tempo was also a little bit better in the second half.”
Next: No future international friendly matches have been announced at this time. The Americans will be looking forward to CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying, which will take place in the United States in October.
United States 2, France 2
At East Hartford
USA (8-2-2) 0 2 — 2
France 1 1 — 2
Goals: France: Louisa Necib (PK, 27:00); Amandine Henry (68:00); USA: Alex Morgan (56:00, 85:00); Assists: USA Allie Long, Tobin Heath; Shots: USA, 11-8; Shots on goal: USA, 6-3; Saves: 4-1, France; Corner kicks, USA 4-1; Offsides: France, 5-1; Attendance: 14,695
USA: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 6-Whitney Engen (3-Christie Rampone, 46), 25-Meghan Klingenberg (5-Kelley O’Hara, 79); 15-Allie Long (17-Tobin Heath, 60), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 12-Lauren Holiday; 9-Heather O’Reilly (13-Alex Morgan, 46), 2-Sydney Leroux (8-Amy Rodriguez, 79), 23-Christen Press
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
FRA: 16-Sarah Bouhaddi; 8-Jessica Houara, 2-Wendy Renard, 4-Laura Goerges, 24-Julie Soyer; 6-Amandine Henry, 15-Elise Bussaglia, 14-Louisa Necib, 12- Elodie Thomis; 9-Eugenie Le Sommer (10-Camille Abily, 84), 17-Gaetane Thiney (18-Marie Laure Delie, 89)
Head Coach: Philippe Bergeroo