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Naeher, Americans and battle to 1-1 tie with Australia

American goalie Alyssa Raeher drives the ball deep into the Australian end of the field in the final minutes of Sunday’s 1-1 tie in the Tournament of Nations at Rentschler Field.

EAST HARTFORD, July 29 – It wasn’t the best start for American goalie Alyssa Naeher in her first-ever appearance with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in her home state of Connecticut.

The Americans got burned on a quick transition with a little under 22 minutes gone in the game to give visiting Australia an early 1-0 lead in Sunday’s Tournament of Nations game at Rentschler Field.

But Naeher didn’t give up another score and her teammates rallied with 18 shots on goal, finally tying up the contest with literally seconds left before extra time in the second half on a head ball from Lindsey Horan off the foot of Megan Rapinoe before 21,570 fans in a 1-1 tie.

Ellis had her back.

“These are the games she needs,” Ellis said. “She was solid tonight. There is a confidence about her on the ball that her teammate sense.”

Naeher, who grew up in Seymour and played soccer for her father at Christian Heritage Academy in Trumbull, is playing all three games in the Tournament of Nations. She is getting to face three other top 10 ranked teams – Japan (No. 6), Brazil (No. 7) and Australia (No. 8).

“It’s been good growth for her,” Ellis said. “More importantly, she needs games against very good teams to challenge her.”

Naeher faced six shots on goal and made one save. In the final minutes of the game, she was venturing out of the goal area to help keep the ball in the Australian end of the field.

“We’ll take a look at the goal (this week as a team). We could have a few opportunities to stop that, so it’s not just put on one (person),” Ellis said.

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 before slipping a pass behind the U.S. defense to teammate  Chloe Logarzo, who beat Naeher to the inside post.

Naeher was making her 31st career start in goal for the United States. She is now 5-0-2 in seven starts this season and three shutouts. She was 10-2-1 with six shutouts in 13 appearances a year ago.

“The team battled back and for 90 minutes, put together a complete performance and found a way to put one in at the end so I’m happy about that. We have to keep building on that,” Naeher said.

Naeher, 30, had plenty of family and friends in the crowd Sunday. “It was a privilege to play here in Connecticut,” she said. “I was born and raised here and this is where it all started for me. It was fun to play on the field here in Hartford. That was special for me, for sure.”

Alyssa Naeher played her first national team game in Connecticut Sunday in the Tournament of Nations.

The Americans played in front of 21,582 fans – just about 200 fans shy of the record for most fans to watch a women’s game in Connecticut. In 2016, there were 21,792 fans in the stands on a chilly 47 degree April evening to watch the U.S. team face Columbia in a 10-0 victory.

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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