Lavelle sparks the USWNT to a triumph at the Tournament of Nations
Needing a two-goal win to secure the Tournament of Nations crown, the USWNT got off to a poor star after conceding the opener. But Jill Ellis' team responded with a resounding rally for a 4-1 win. ASN's John Halloran was there and here is his report
BY John Halloran PostedBRIGEVIEW, Ill. - The United States women’s national team went into Thursday night’s match of the Tournament of Nations needing a two-goal victory to secure the championship. But things didn’t get off to the right start when, in the 16th minute, an own goal put the Americans down and now needing three tallies to recover.
August 02, 2018
August 02, 2018
Enter Rose Lavelle.
Fans who follow the U.S. closely, especially the youth teams, have known Lavelle’s quality for quite some time. Easily the best player on the team’s 2014 U-20 World Cup squad, it took the Ohio native a frustratingly long time to break into the senior team. However, when she did—debuting in last year’s SheBelieves Cup, Lavelle dazzled fans with a series of jaw-dropping moves.
Then came a hamstring injury last June that never quite healed and an entire year spent trying to get healthy.
On Thursday, head coach Jill Ellis gave Lavelle her first start in 11 months and the 23-year-old quickly reminded everyone what they’d been missing. From the start, Lavelle made dashing runs through Brazil’s backline and set up her teammates on repeated occasions with expertly weighed passes.
Her combination play with Tobin Heath tore gaping holes in Brazil’s defense and with the Americans needing to get back in the game, Lavelle hit a half-volley from just inside the box into the upper corner of the net to bring the U.S. level in the 33rd minute of play.
Rose Lavelle equalizes for the USWNT with a sweet half-volley! ???????????? pic.twitter.com/0KrxHpaw7x— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 3, 2018
Speaking to the media after the contest, Lavelle said the goal represented a cathartic moment in her recovery, but also joked about the effort.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I feel like I usually I shank those way over the goal, so I just wanted to make good contact with it,” she said with a laugh.
Lavelle admits that she was nervous heading into the match after such a long spell out of the starting lineup and had to remind herself to “enjoy the moment.”
“I have just needed to trust my progression and where I’m at. My mindset has been just taking it training by training, game by game, and resetting after each training and game,” she explained. “I think that kind of helped me going into this game, just realizing whether the 45 minutes is good or bad, it’s kind of a small victory to be able to go out and get my first start and 45 minutes under my belt.”
The Wisconsin alumna also admitted her cardiovascular fitness isn’t quite up to par, but that her hamstring is finally healthy.
“Fitness-wise, I’m definitely not [100%]. I wasn’t so confident that I was not going to be huffing and puffing,” noted Lavelle. “I didn’t feel that way out there, thankfully. [But] physically—hamstring, everything—I feel really good.”
Tobin Heath, who noted she felt isolated on the right wing in the U.S.’ second game, said Lavelle helped open up the American attack against Brazil.
“She really, from the start of the game, got me involved,” said Heath. “She plays at a different rhythm than everyone else, so she has a way of getting the ball and committing a defender and allowing us to get numbers up in the attack.
“In a couple of those situations, it really helped me how she confused the defense and allowed me to get open and vice-versa. With that, I enjoy playing with her because it’s unpredictable.”
“That’s only the beginning of what she can do,” Heath added.
Ellis also praised Lavelle and said her qualities could become very useful for the U.S. against teams that try to bunker in.
“Rose is a very different type of player and she’s just really special,” said Ellis. “We recognized that a long time ago and obviously had to wait a long time for this night, in terms of getting her back healthy.”
“She just sees and reads the game very well and she solves pressure exceptionally well,” the coach added. “In a game like tonight where it gets stretched, she’s going to be effective, but I also think she’s going to be effective in a game where teams sit very low and she has to find space in tight lines.”
Lavelle’s early equalizer brought the score against Brazil to 1-1, sparking a comeback and a final 4-1 scoreline that gave the Americans the championship after a win against Japan and a tie with Australia.
“We’re kind of hitting our stride and we had three really good tests, three really good opponents that presented a lot of different things,” said Lavelle.
“It’s a definite confidence-booster moving forward.”
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.