An experienced United States side featuring most of their 2019 World Cup winners, plus a handful of newer faces, began the 2021 SheBelieves Cup with a narrow 1-0 over Canada on Thursday night.
Rose Lavelle came off the bench to score the winner with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alyssa Naher all started for the hosts in Orlando, Florida, with goalscorer Lavelle, as well as Christen Press and Alex Morgan, playing in the second half.
21-year-old rising starlet Catarina Macario continued her fledgling USWNT career, while there was more opportunity for right-back Margaret Purce to stake her claim for a long-term place.
Canada, now under the guidance of former England assistant coach Bev Priestman, are usually known for their stellar defensive record and this game proved to be no different.
It took the U.S. 79 minutes to wear them down, with Lavelle driving the ball into the bottom corner of the net when it rebounded to her following an attacking free-kick into the penalty area.
Injury kept Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson out of the game for Canada, while they were also missing European-based stars like Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema. Yet despite such big blows before the game had even begun, they were in it throughout.
For the United States, it represents a fifth consecutive victory in SheBelieves Cup games stretching back to the 2019 tournament, while it was a 14th successive win in any setting.
Immediately prior, Brazil had started with a 4-1 thrashing of Argentina, who were invited to participate as a late replacement for Japan.
Brazil were comfortable winners in the end, although the first half wasn’t flush with chances and it was a penalty from Marta after 30 minutes that got the ball rolling. From there, Debinha, Adriana and Geyse added goals after the interval.
Manchester United teenager Ivana Fuso also made her senior international debut.
Mariana Larroquette pulled back a consolation goal for Argentina, who are punching above their weight in this environment as joint 31st in FIFA’s world rankings. In contrast, Canada and Brazil are joint eighth, while the United States remain in first place.
The Argentina team has been grossly underfunded in the past, although the country’s national association has taken the first steps towards developing the women’s game. Women’s club football in Argentina has recently gone professional and more players will be given full-time contracts.
The next round of SheBelieves games will be played at the same venue in Orlando on 21 February and will pit the USWNT against Brazil in a contest that will go a long way to deciding the overall winner. The final set of fixtures will then come a few days later on 24 February.