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Energized Rapinoe helps U.S. women battle back and tie Australia in final seconds

U.S. forward Megan Rapino, right, dribbles past Australian defender Ellie Carpenter (21) in Sunday’s Tournament of Nations game in East Hartford.

EAST HARTFORD, July 29 – In her 139 appearances, forward Megan Rapinoe has played in a few tight contests with the U.S. women’s national team. She played on the American team that won the World Cup in 2015 and the Olympic gold medal in 2012.

On Sunday, she provided some offensive sparks to help the United States survive Australia in the Tournament of Nations at Rentschler Field. Rapinoe chipped in a corner kick in the waning seconds of the contest to teammate Lindsey Horan to help the Americans battle back to tie Australia, 1-1 before 21,570 fans.

It was a team-leading eighth assist of the year for Rapinoe, who has 52 assists on her career, which is good enough for seventh place in U.S. team history.

Australia took a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the game, scoring on a quick transition counter attack up the field after an American goal-scoring opportunity with 21:45 gone in the game. Australia’s Lisa DeVanna made a great run up field after a U.S. scoring opportunity before slipping a pass behind the U.S. defense to teammate  Chloe Logarzo, who beat U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher of Connecticut to the inside post.

It didn’t stop the American attack. The U.S. controlled a majority of the first half with 64 percent of the possession and a 9-5 edge on shots. In the second half, the United States continue to control the ball and finished the game with a 10-2 edge on corner kicks and an 18-8 edge on shots.

Rapinoe’s cross into the middle just sailed over the head of teammate Alex Morgan, who had several good scoring chances in the game, and right to Honan who headed the ball into the net despite the immediate presence of four Australian defenders.

“Obviously, you want to win but this was a good game for a lot of people who haven’t been in tight games like that with a big crowd,” Rapinoe said. “That was a good experience for us.”

Australia’s Haley Raso (16) battles American Crystal Dunn (19) for the ball in Sunday’s Tournament of Nations game in East Hartford.

Rapinoe, 33, played with energy from the start and made several crossing opportunities for her teammates that landed in front of the goal.

“She has taken her game to another level,” American Carli Lloyd said. “She has gotten herself really fit so she can impact the game, the whole game. And that is what we need her from her. Great stuff.”

Rapinoe smiled when asked about her energy and how it impacted the contest. “You just keep going I guess,” she said. “We were down. We had to bring it and be active.

“I felt I was getting the looks I wanted on the outside and was able to get the ball on my feet,” Rapinoe said.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis was thrilled with the win. Five players came off the bench to earn some playing time.

“It was really a good performance,” she said. “We had the better of the game in almost every phase. There were so many good things. We talk about a total team performance and that is what we got tonight from front to back.

“Obviously, the will to get it done is part of our mentality,” she said. “I know we supposed to focus on the result but the performance was the greatest reward tonight. (Australia) is a hard team to control and I felt we were in the driver’s seat for most of the game.”

Ellis said that the team would review the Australian goal but noted there were opportunities to stop that goal-scoring counterattack before it got to Naeher.

“We didn’t win but I am proud of our tea, for fighting back and staying in it for the full 90 minutes,” Naeher said. “These are two teams that like to play fast and try to get behind the defense. We founds a way to win so I’m happy about that. Now, we have to keep building off that.”

It was an loud crowd boosting on the Americans Sunday against Australia.

The Americans face Brazil in the final day of the tournament on Thursday in Illinois. The United States can win the tournament with a victory and a better goal differential if Australia beats Japan.

In the first match of the day, after 75 minutes of battling on a hot day, Marta scored in the 76th minute and Beatriz tallied what would eventually be the game-winner with a 90th minute strike as Brazil defeated Japan, 2-1. The win kept Brazil in contention for the tournament title.

With the draw between the USA and Australia, both teams improve to 4 points each. Brazil is second with three points and remain in contention for the tournament title, with only Japan eliminated after two consecutive losses.

The U.S. is unbeaten in their last 18 matches (15-0-3) and improved to 25-1-3 against Australia. The Americans are 8-0-2 in 2018 with wins against Denmark, Germany, England, Mexico (twice), Chinese Taiepei (twice) and Japan with ties against Australia and France. 

The U.S. team hasn’t lost in 18 consecutive matches with a 15-0-3 record. Their last loss came a year ago in this tournament with a 1-0 loss to Australia.

United States 1, Australia 1
At East Hartford
USA (1-0-1)                   0  1  — 1
Australia (1-0-1)          1  0  — 1
Goals: Australia: Chloe Logarzo (Lisa DeVanna) 22:00; USA: Lindsey Horan (Megan Rapinoe) 90:00; Saves: Alyssa Naeher (USA) 1, Lydia Williams (A) 5; Shots on goal: 6-2, USA; Shots: 18-8, USA; Corner kicks: 10-2, USA; Fouls: Australia 16-9; Offsides: 4-2, USA

Lineups:
USA:
 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Emily Sonnett (14-Casey Short, 79), 7-Abby Dahlkemper (16-Rose Lavelle, 79), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 19-Crystal Dunn (10-Carli Lloyd, 87); 2-Julie Ertz, 9-Lindsey Horan, 6-Morgan Brian (5-McCall Zerboni, 63); 17-Tobin Heath (23-Christen Press, 74), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.), 15-Megan Rapinoe
AUS: 1-Lydia Williams; 4-Clare Polkinghorne, 6-Chloe Logarzo (9-Caitlin Foord, 85), 8-Elise Kellond-Knight (capt.), 10-Emily Van Egmond, 11-Lisa De Vanna (17-Kyah Simon, 58), 13-Tameka Butt, 14-Alanna Kennedy, 16-Hayley Raso (15-Emily Gielnik, 90+5), 20-Sam Kerr (19-Katrina Gorry, 90+1), 21-Ellie Carpenter

Attendance, 21,570; Weather: 81 degrees, sunny

Morgan Brian of the United States looks to pass the ball Sunday against Australia.

Tournament of Nations

W L T Pts. GF GA
United States 1-0-1 4 5 3
Australia 1-0-1 4 4 2
Brazil 1-1-0 3 3 4
Japan 0-2-0 0 3 6
Sunday’s results
At East Hartford
United States 1, Australia 1
Brazil 2, Japan 1
Thursday, August 2
At Bridgeview, Illinois

Australia vs. Japan, 3:45 p.m.
United States vs. Brazil, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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