France Humbles USWNT 3-1, Ending 28-Match Unbeaten Streak

Jill Ellis got the test she wanted for the USWNT vs France. And then some. 

Kadidiatou Diani scored two goals, including an audacious second-half chip, to send third-ranked France to a 3-1 win over the U.S. in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France. 

The USWNT had its 28-match unbeaten streak snapped in the first game of 2019 after having gone unbeaten in 2018. The last time the U.S. women lost was July 27, 2017, a 1-0 defeat to Australia in the Tournament of Nations. 

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France outplayed the U.S. from the start, but the USWNT was a bit shorthanded. Ellis kept Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz and Casey Short out of the lineup as a precaution due to minor injuries. 

The 3-1 defeat was humbling, but it might actually be a good thing for the U.S.

Four years ago, the USWNT began the 2015 season with a loss to France in France before going on to win the World Cup.

On Saturday, the USWNT began the 2019 season with a loss to France in France. Will the U.S. go on to win the World Cup?

Back in 2015, Ellis credited the 2-0 loss to France for helping spur the USWNT to victory at the World Cup later that year in Canada. That team went undefeated the rest of the year until a defeat to China in December, well after the U.S. had added a third star to its crest.

It remains to be seen how the U.S. responds to this defeat, but there will need to be a response — a big one.

Ertz might be the most important player on the USWNT and her teammates severely missed her in midfield on Saturday. Christen Press and Mal Pugh were given opportunities to start on the wings, but didn’t provide enough end product to prove to Ellis they deserve to start over a Rapinoe or Heath. 

The biggest question for the USWNT heading into this summer will be its fullbacks after Ellis yanked both of her starting fullbacks on Saturday. 

France controlled the action in the early minutes and just when the U.S. looked like it was gaining a foothold, Les Bleus hit with a killer counterattack started and finished by Diani in the 9th minute. 

While France was incisive, you can’t help but think the U.S. defenders could’ve done a bit better, particularly Emily Fox at left back, who earned her third cap on Saturday. The goal ended a U.S. shutout streak of more than 800 minutes.

Fox was beaten again similarly in the 27th minute, but Diani’s shot was scuffed and cleared away without further damage on the scoreboard. Moments later, a cross from France’s right wing forced Alyssa Naeher into a great save on France’s leading goal scorer Eugenie Le Sommer.

It wasn’t until the 31st minute that the USWNT put its first shot on goal, a Press effort after a nice run that ultimately rolled right into the arms of France keeper Sarah Bouhaddi. 

But France had the run of play in the first half, racking up six corners and eight shots compared to two and three for the USWNT. Worst of all, Alex Morgan received a fist to the head from Bouhaddi moments after the striker was called offside. 

With Fox struggling at left back, Ellis replaced her with Tierna Davidson early in the second half. It didn’t help much, as Diani doubled France’s advantage four minutes later with a beautiful chip over Naeher, again from a move that attacked the USWNT’s left side. 

That might be the best goal of the day.

Ellis tried further changes after the second goal, bringing Carli Lloyd in for the other fullback, Emily Sonnett. Five minutes later, France found the back of the net again — only this time the goal was ruled out for offside. 

However, Marie-Antoinette Katoto (who may win the award for best name at this summer’s World Cup) put the U.S. out of its misery in the 78th minute, racing past the American defense, dribbling around Naeher and shooting into an empty net.

Jill Ellis all but waved the white flag after the third goal, taking off Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan for Jessica McDonald and Samantha Mewis. Morgan, who had scored 25 goals in her last 26 appearances coming in (including 18 in 2018), couldn’t impact the game in any meaningful manner.

The U.S. did get a late consolation goal through Pugh to avoid the shutout in stoppage time, finding the accuracy to score far post, though it was far too little too late. 

The USWNT won’t have to think about this loss for too long, as the team will play Spain on Tuesday. France’s next match is against No. 2 Germany. 

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