USWNT defeats Brazil at 2021 SheBelieves Cup

USWNT players, including Crystal Dunn and Christen Press, celebrate after the U.S. scores against Brazil at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup
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A fourth SheBelieves trophy is within reach for the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT).

On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. defeated Brazil 2-0 to take the lead in the 2021 SheBelieves standings. The Americans have won three of the five previous editions of the SheBelieves Cup (2016, 2018, 2020).

The game started with an unexpected sight: all 11 USWNT starters standing for the U.S. national anthem. Since last June – when U.S. Soccer rescinded a controversial policy that required players to “stand respectfully” for the national anthem – many (but not all) starters have typically taken a knee as a way of protesting police brutality and racial injustice.

[Related: As some U.S. soccer players stand, Krieger tells Black fans: “I’m kneeling for you”]

After the game, Crystal Dunn explained the change. “We were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism, and I think we decided that – moving forward – we no longer feel the need to kneel because we are doing the work behind the scenes and we are combating systemic racism. And we never felt like we were going to kneel forever…

“I just thought it was time for us to move on to the next phase and I think we are prepared to stand moving forward, and it’s only because we feel very comfortable in our efforts off the field to combat systemic racism.”

Once the game got underway, the U.S. found the back of the net much faster than Thursday’s tournament opener, with Christen Press scoring in the 11th minute:

Brazilian coach Pia Sundhage, who was the USWNT coach when Press got her first cap, reflected on her former player’s talent: “In the box, she’s one of the best. And unfortunately, she scored a goal today.”

Just moments after Press scored, Dunn had a clutch tackle that prevented what could have been Brazil’s best opportunity of the game:

Megan Rapinoe, who came off the bench in the 71st minute, scored the clincher and then celebrated by rocking an imaginary baby, a tribute to the daughter that U.S. teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris recently welcomed to their family.

“I thought Pinoe was incredible coming in… not just the fact that she scored a goal, but she was committed to helping the team defend and and close the game down,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The players that are coming from the bench, they aren’t substitutes, they’re game changers.”

[Related: Megan Rapinoe responds to insurrection at Capitol: “This is America”]

Today’s USWNT win marked another shutout for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who turned away two shots on goal. Naeher now has 10 consecutive shutouts, which extends her own record of longest shutout streak by any individual USWNT goalkeeper.

Next up for the USWNT is Argentina (Wednesday, 7pm). The full 2021 SheBelieves Cup schedule can be found here.

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