The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) have earned a spot in their third consecutive World Cup final with a 2-1 win over England on Tuesday. An early goal by Christen Press opened up scoring on the day, but Golden Boot leader Alex Morgan scored the game winner in the 31st minute to give the U.S. the win.
Ellen White scored the lone goal for England, while captain Steph Houghton failed to convert the equalizer from the spot late in the second half. England also went down a player after center back Millie Bright had to exit the match after picking up two yellow cards on the day and seeing red as a result.
The win also gave the U.S. the new Women’s World Cup record for longest winning streak in tournament action with 11 games.
“I can’t even express how proud I am. It was just such a great effort from everybody,” USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis told Fox after the match. “We had some challenges in terms of bodies and everything, but everybody just stepped up and that’s what this team is all about.”
There was much talk before the match about how much the absence of Megan Rapinoe—sidelined with what was later reported to be a hamstring injury—would affect the USWNT’s chances.
However, the U.S. didn’t skip a beat as Press, who started up top in Rapinoe’s place, put the reigning champs on the board in the 10th minute, heading in a cross from Kelley O’Hara past English goalkeeper Carly Telford, starting her second match of the tournament in place of the injured Karen Bardsley.. The goal marks the sixth consecutive game this tournament that the USWNT have scored in the opening 12 minutes.
Entering the match, the U.S. were 35-4-0 in World Cup action when scoring the first goal, but England wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Ellen White, who has been the most potent striker for the Lionesses all tournament, brought the score back level less than 10 minutes later.
England forward Beth Mead set White up with a high cross around O’Hara that took a perfect bounce in front of White, who one-touched it past U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher for the equalizer. With the goal, White has scored in every World Cup match she has played in and temporarily took the lead in the Golden Boot race with a total of six goals.
But it didn’t take long for Morgan to put the USWNT back on top—and herself in front of White in the Golden Boot race—scoring her sixth of the tournament in the 31st minute. Press got the hockey assist with a short pass from the near sideline to Horan, who sent a lofted cross into the box, where Morgan was making a run. Morgan took to the air and got onto the end of Horan’s service, heading it past Telford for the eventual game winner.
Following the goal, Morgan celebrated by pretending to sip on a piping hot cup of tea, pinky extended for full effect. The American Outlaws sang “Happy Birthday” to the striker, who was also celebrating her 30th birthday. Morgan is now the only player in Women’s World Cup history to score a World Cup goal on her birthday.
Looking to quickly equalize once again, though, England’s attack struck fast on the restart, but U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came up huge with the diving save.
Minutes later, Bright picked up her first yellow card of the night after her hand came in contact with Morgan’s face while the two were battling for possession. Hand-to-face contact will result in a card every time, and Bright had to play 50 more minutes of an already physical match more conservatively as a result.
The game entered half-time with the U.S. sitting on a 2-1 lead, and the scoreline stayed the same throughout the following 45 minutes. However, England looked to be the more threatening attacking team in the half.
Minutes after the break, England came dangerously close to scoring a second goal on a set piece as the free kick service bounced around inside the box. First Steph Houghton headed Mead’s service down, but she was well off the mark and instead the ball bounced off of Julie Ertz’s body. White then attempted the close-range bicycle kick, only to have Naeher make the two-hand catch to deny the Lionesses once again.
In the 58th minute, Phil Neville made the first change of the night, subbing on Fran Kirby in place of Mead. With the substitution England resorts back to a 4-3-3, which they are more comfortable playing.
The tactical substitution seemed to pay off, as White put the ball in the back of the net for the second time in the 67th minute. However, the official consulted Video Assistant Referee (VAR), and it was determined that White was just a hair offside, enough to have the goal called back to preserve the U.S.’s lead.
VAR didn’t only benefit the U.S. though, as England was awarded a penalty kick minutes after a play in which USWNT center back Becky Sauerbrunn clipped the back of White’s leg inside the box, causing the forward to whiff on a shot in front of goal and go sprawling to the pitch.
Although the officially initially did not point to the spot, she consulted the video replay on the monitors and changed her mind, awarding England the penalty kick. Houghton stepped up to the spot to take the penalty for England, but her attempt was a poor one and Naeher made the easy save to prevent England from pulling back level with the U.S.
“I told her, ‘This was your shining moment, but we’ve got one more game,’” Ellis said of Naeher’s performance against England. “Just front to back, I couldn’t be more proud of this group of players.”
After the missed penalty, England seemed deflated, and the game became increasingly chippy. That physicality led to Bright making a studs-up tackle on Morgan in the 86th minute, earning the English defender her second yellow card of the night for the red card and ejection from the match. With England down to only 10 players, the U.S. did well to use their modified five-back to manage the clock for the remainder of the match.
With the win, the U.S. advance to their third consecutive World Cup final, where they will take on the winner of Wednesday’s Sweden-Netherlands semifinal. The 2019 World Cup final takes place on Sunday, July 7 and will kick off at 11 a.m. ET on Fox.
Full #ENGUSA highlights are below.