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FOOTBALL: Late Heath goal gives U.S. a tie with England, 2-2, in second SheBelieves Cup game

The U.S. women’s national team is ranked no. 1 in the world, but it hardly looked the part in its second straight 2-2 tie in the SheBelieves Cup, this time against England in Nashville, Tennessee.

The first loss for the U.S. was primary goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who was out with a minor shoulder injury.

But more troubling was that from the start, the U.S. could not maintain consistent possession of the ball, or coordinate attacks in the final third of the field. Nonetheless, Megan Rapinoe gave the American squad a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute off a bad clearance, which she right-footed into the goal from the left of the box.

But it hardly held up, as three minutes later, Steph Houghton equalized off an indirect free kick with a brilliant shot that curled into the far right side of the net last U.S. keeper Adrianna Franch, making her first appearance for the U.S. team.

The second half was more of the same, although the U.S. intensity increased. But holes in the U.S. defense were exposed again and again. Midfielder Fran Kirby found room in the 52nd minute and popped a ball from the center of the field to the right side for Nikita Parris, who skipped past defender Crystal Dunn and rocketed a shot into the far left side of the goal for 2-1 England lead.

The U.S. stormed back and off a corner kick that got knocked around in front of English keeper Karen Bardsley, U.S. striker Tobin Heath kicked it once, then kicked it again after a Bardsley save for the tying goal in the 67th minute.

The American offense revved up in the final 15 minutes and in the four minutes of stoppage time. Rapinoe sent a sensational cross toward Julie Ertz at the corner of the English goal in the 78th minute, but Ertz’s header was wide.

The game ended 2-2, the second straight draw for the U.S., which is now 1-1-2 after four games in 2019 and has been outscored, 6-7 … not the start that was hoped for. Rapinoe said “Obviously, there are a lot of things we need to fix,” in a post-match interview.

The U.S. is now 10-4-2 against England all-time, but more troubling is the scoring by opponents. The U.S. women gave up two goals or more in a game twice in all of 2015-16-17-18, but now three times already in 2019. The last time it did that was in 2014, when it game up two goals or more on three occasions the entire year.

In the other SheBelieves Cup match, Japan, which tied the U.S., 2-2, in its first game, came from 1-0 down to beat Brazil, 3-1.

The final doubleheader will be on Tuesday in Tampa, with England playing Japan and the U.S. against Brazil, televised on FS! Starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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