Who does the United States women's national team call when it really needs a goal? The answer came loud and clear in the 85th minute at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night when Carli Lloyd booted a pass off the crossbar that dropped decisively into the net to even the score against Brazil at 1-1. A draw was as good as it was going to get.
For Lloyd, it was more affirmation that she has become the goal-pounding offensive star for the U.S. women's national team. The goal extended Lloyd's career-best goal-scoring year. She now has 17 in 2015; her previous best was 15 in 2014 and 2012.
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But while the game-tying heroics were courtesy of Lloyd, the star of the 2015 Women's World Cup and an almost sure bet to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award this year, it was Marta and the Brazilians who turned the tables on the reigning Women's World Cup champs.
For Brazil, this might have been their own, private Women's World Cup. For the reigning Women's World Cup champs, it was certainly a startling jolt of reality. The much-hyped Victory Tour looks like it may be sputtering.
For the 23,603 fans in Seattle's gleaming downtown football stadium, the desperate effort by the U.S. women's national team to try and get on board certainly made for a dramatic finale. This was the fifth game in the 10-game Victory Tour that the U.S. is playing in the wake of its 2015 Women's World Cup win in Canada, but was nearly the first to result in a loss, and certainly was the first in which an opponent had given the U.S. any challenge.
Hope Solo said she was looking forward to her Seattle homecoming, but the former University of Washington star was rudely re-introduced to the perils of the Brazilians. Less than three minutes into the match, a corner kick by Brazil's Andressinha curled across the goal opening where Monica smartly headed the ball past a defenseless Solo.
The 1-0 Brazil lead did not exactly elevate the play of the Americans, who continued to seem a bit on their heels. Brazil came out ready to show that, despite a fall off in FIFA World Rankings over the years, they're still loaded with talented players who possess speed and footwork capable of moving the ball with panache.
It was the fastest any opponent has scored on the U.S. has conceded in 2015. It was only time any opponent had scored on the U.S. before the 27th minute all season.
Megan Rapinoe was the most aggressive player for the U.S. The midfielder worked hard all night to make plays and to try and get the referees to recognize what Rapinoe thought was a rash of dives by the Brazilians. At one point after a whistle that signaled a foul against the U.S., Rapinoe blasted the ball out of bounds behind the goal line. Later, she drew a chat with the referee for another fruitless attempt to draw attention to what she clearly felt were flagrant flops by Brazil.
As the match wore on, the U.S. tried everything to even the score. In the 67th minute, pressing to try and get on the board, Lloyd bolted down the middle of the field to try and pick up a pass headed back toward her by Alex Morgan. At full speed, Lloyd was on track to field the pass but could not get passed Brazilian defender
In the 68th minute, Rapinoe had a breakaway with plenty of time to dribble and try and set up a clear shot. By the time she lined it up, however, Brazil goalkeeper Luciana was in the right spot and easily punched Rapinoe's bid away.
Marta and her cohorts continued to have fun controlling the ball into the 23rd minute, especially when Marta's expert dribbling took veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx off her feet. Marta, in the clear, delivered a pass into the box that nearly resulted in a second Brazilian goal. Solo dove to try and cover the goal line and the ball was dug out just in time by defender Meghan Klingenberg.
The U.S. has dominated the series with a 25-3-4 record over Brazil, but that hardly diminishes the pain Brazil has inflicted in some of the most dramatic victories over the U.S., including the 4-0 shellacking in the 2007 Women's World Cup semifinal in China. It remains the worst loss in U.S. history. But the drama works both ways. It was against Brazil that Abby Wambach connected on that amazing game-tying header at the end of overtime in the 2011 quarterfinals, which the U.S. then won on penalty kicks.
The game was a sendoff for veteran Shannon Boxx. The 38-year-old midfielder played her 195th and final game for the U.S. team and served as the night's captain. With a toddler daughter and a wish to have more children, Boxx said she's thrilled to be going out on her own terms and on such a career high note. She nearly left the game in 2003, when she had been accepted into Pepperdine University for a master's program in clinical psychology.
Boxx was treated to a standing ovation when she came off the field for Tobin Heath in the 41st minute. Boxx -- who wore her No. 7 jersey with her married name "Spearman" on the back for the first time -- is retiring from the U.S. team this week, along with Lauren Holiday and Lori Chalupny, who will play their final matches in Orlando on Sunday.
The departures of these three players has opened the door for U.S. coach Jill Ellis to include eight players to the roster this week who were not part of the 2015 Women's World Cup squad. It is a changing of the guard and Boxx said she knows she's leaving the national team in good standing given the talent pool.
"As players on this team, you always want to grow the game and to see the game growing, it shows that we're doing the right thing. You watch these young players coming onto this team and you know that they're scared and nervous and we've all felt that, we've all done that. They're going through the same process we all did so you feel for that. But we're not going to show them any leniency either because they're trying to win our jobs. But knowing I'm retiring, it's really fun to see these new players and see how good they are,'' Boxx said.
Three of the eight players not on the World Cup roster made their first appearance in the U.S. national team camp: defenders Jaelene Hinkle and Emily Sonnett, both 22, and 30-year-old defender Gina Lewandowski. They joined the versatile midfielder Crystal Dunn, the 2015 NWSL Golden Boot winner; forward Stephanie McCaffrey; forward Lindsey Horan; midfielder Samantha Mewis and midfielder Christine Nairn of the Washington Spirit.
But while the U.S. was looking to start using these Victory Tour matches to bring along potential new players, Brazil quickly shook the U.S. back to reality. They were a far stiffer challenge than anything the U.S. has seen since July 5, when they beat Japan to win their first Women's World Cup in 16 years. The game last night was an eye-opening reminder that the time for celebration has passed: It's time to start revamping the lineup to find the right roster and chemistry. The CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament is in February.