2022 USWNT SheBelieves Cup
After the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) won the 2015 Women’s World Cup 5-2 over Japan, soccer in women’s sports changed forever. This was a monumental win because the women faced many years of not being successful in their run of the tournament and had a lot to prove. Since this was such a major turning point in women's sports, this championship inspired the USWNT to create a friendly tournament of their own, the SheBelieves Cup.
This tournament is presented by Visa and was hosted on February 17th through the 23rd, marking its seventh year taking place. The winner is determined by total points, three for a win, one for a tie, and none for a loss. However, the first tiebreaker is the overall goal difference, then the most goals scored, followed by the head-to-head result, and finally the Fair Play Ranking based on yellow and red cards. Lastly, this is a four team international tournament, and this year's participants were Iceland, New Zealand, Czech Republic, and annual hosts, the United States of America.
The USWNT has made their run of winning five out of the seven SheBelieves Cup tournaments they have participated in. Dating back to March 9th, 2016 where they took a 2-1 win over Germany to bring home their first title before competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Following this, they unfortunately didn’t make the best run in 2017 where they ended up finishing in fourth place after a heartbreaking loss to England, but were quick to get their revenge in 2018, where they beat England in the final.
2019 consisted of another great tournament for the USWNT despite losing to England in the final and finishing second. Therefore, it was only up from there for the United States as they have gone on to win the next three tournaments they have participated in, beating Spain in 2020, Brazil in 2021, and most recently, Iceland this past February.
U.S. Soccer recently hosted their seventh annual SheBelieves Cup tournament, February 17th through February 23rd, however things ran a little differently this year. For Covid purposes, rather than keeping the round-robin tournament on just one field, the games were evenly divided between two, the Dignity Health Sporks Park in Carson, California and Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
As the years go by, many normal faces on the USWNT are now veteran players who either retired or are on the backend of their career. With that being said, a lot of opportunity opens up for the younger generation to showcase their talent and prove their worth to U.S. Soccer. A few players in particular who everyone we were told to watch out for are winger Trinity Rodman and striker Sophia Smith.
Trinity Rodman made her debut with the USWNT during the opening game for the SheBelieves Cup against the Czech Republic where they drawed 0-0. Although she didn’t score, Rodman had a very high impact and managed to bring a lot of talent in all aspects of the game. ESPN states, “Rodman hadn’t scored, though she came close twice during her 30-minute outing. But that was really beside the point. On a cool night under a full moon, the Washington Spirit’s 19-year-old forward continued her sky’s-the-limit ascent in what Coach Vlatko Andonovski called ‘the first of many for her.’”
When asked about Rodman, ESPN states, “Her ability to set up her teammates is a nice complement to her nose for goal. Rodman typically attacks down the right side for the Spirit, but it’s common for her to flip to the left side, making her a diverse attacking threat. On a World Cup roster in which flexibility is valuable, that should only help.”
Additionally, Sophia Smith is a young player with a lot to bring to the table. With notable ball control and finishing ability, along with an admirable work ethic, a lot of opposing teams make sure to keep an eye out for her. ESPN states that, “while she’s got the speed and finishing ability that are prerequisites for any good striker, Smith stands out for her work ethic and tenacity.”
One of her biggest contributions to the team is her composure on the ball and the opportunities she creates for herself and others. Theathletic.com states, “Sophia Smith has just made herself available in the wide left space. She takes a few touches, looks up at the goal, and sees Catarina Macario and Midge Purce making their runs. She snaps a head-height left-footed cross weighted to give both forwards a bite at it if they can manage to beat their defenders. The cross instead forces an own goal, opening the scoring against New Zealand. It’s been less than five minutes.”
Moreover, Smith is a very versatile player, switching back and forth between the number seven and number eleven position when needed, giving the United States an opportunity to create chances towards goal from different parts of the field. Theathletic.com states, “With the United States often looking to play width and scatter dangerous balls into the box for a rotating cast of talented strikers and midfielders, you can see how someone with Smith’s ability to take on one-v-one (and sometimes two-v-one), speed to get endline and ability to drop a cross from either side is extremely appealing.”
As a result of the amazing contributions they have already made to the team, they are noted to be two players to watch out for. To add onto this, because they are so young, Trinity Rodman 19, and Sophia Smith 21, they are expected to be the faces of women’s soccer within the next few years to come.
To open up the three doubleheader tournament on Thursday, February 17, Iceland took on New Zealand, while the USWNT faced the Czech Republic. With both games being played at the Dignity Health Sporks Park, Iceland secured a 1-0 win, however the match between the Czech Republic and USWNT resulted in a 0-0 draw.
Following Thursday’s games, each team was matched up against a new opponent that they would face on Sunday, February 20th, at the Toyota Stadium. Iceland against the Czech Republic and the USWNT against New Zealand. The results of these new matchups were a 2-1 win for Iceland and a 5-0 win for the USWNT. Iceland and the USWNT both qualified for the finals, while the Czech Republic and New Zealand would battle for third place.
Wednesday, February 23, the night everyone had been waiting for as it would be the deciding factor for who will bring home the 2022 championship finally came along. To start off, at Toyota Stadium, New Zealand tied the Czech Republic, with the Czech Republic taking home third place solely based on goal differential. Going into this match they had one point and New Zealand had zero, so as long as they at least tied them, they would capture the third place position.
Finally, the USWNT was focused as ever, as they were preparing to win their third consecutive SheBelieves Cup championship, when another major battle of theirs was won. For years now the USWNT fought to receive equal pay, and as of February 22, they had won. The focus of this was to resolve “outstanding equal pay claims in litigation that has been pending since March 2019,” an article on U.S. Soccer states.
This matchup in Frisco, Texas was the 15th meeting all-time between Iceland and the United States, however the first time since 2015 when these two teams faced each other during the Algarve Cup, resulting in a 0-0 draw. U.S. Soccer states, “The USWNT leads the all-time series 12-0-2, with its only other non-win against Iceland coming in a 0-0 draw in April of 2000.”
Going into the championship game, Iceland sat at the top of the tournament table with six points, and needed a tie or a win to take home the trophy. However, if the USWNT had any hopes of doing the same, they needed a victory, as they went into the game with only four points. A USWNT victory over Iceland would give them their fifth title within the last seven years that the tournament has taken place.
The USWNT shutout Iceland 5-0 to take home the SheBelieves Cup title. KFKA states, “Midfielder Catarina Macario and forward Mallory Pugh each scored two goals for the U.S., with the fifth and final goal coming from midfielder Kristie Mewis in the 88th minute of the match, which was held in Frisco, Texas.”
This is the USWNT’s second consecutive SheBelieves Cup championship where no goals were conceded in the final match, and both shutout titles have come under head coach Vlatko Andonovski. Andonovski has set a record for best start for a head coach in USWNT history, going 30-2-6 in 38 games, (two at the end of 2019, nine in 2020, and 24 in 2021). Additionally, this win over Iceland contributed to the USA’s home unbeaten streak of 65 matches.
As a result of their hard work, love for the game, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win, the United States Women’s National is successful once again. They faced many other battles along the way, however they didn’t let it stop them from getting their job done. They can now proudly say that they are the SheBelieves Cup Champions once again!