TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — While the United States didn’t win the SheBelieves Cup tournament on home soil, coach Jill Ellis is still encouraged with the team’s progress as it prepares for the women’s World Cup.
Tobin Heath scored in the first half and the United States finished the SheBelieves Cup with a 1-0 victory over Brazil on Tuesday night.
“I’ve already come out of this tournament with less question marks, because of the takeaways in terms of personnel and different things that we’ve seen, and that feels good,” Ellis said. “Obviously you want to lift that trophy, 100 percent, you want to win every game, but now it’s going in with even more clarity. I think that’s a positive.”
It was the final game of the four-team, round-robin tournament played in three cities. England defeated Japan 3-0 in the early game at Raymond James Stadium on Tuesday to win the SheBelieves Cup title. The United States finished second on points.
All four teams are in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings and will play in the World Cup in France later this year. The Americans, ranked No. 1, are the defending champions of soccer’s most prestigious tournament.
The United States played to a 2-2 draw with Japan in the tournament opener in Chester, Pennsylvania, and then tied England 2-2 in Nashville on Saturday. Brazil, ranked No. 10, lost all three of its matches.
Alyssa Naeher, the presumed U.S. starter in goal for the World Cup, injured her shoulder in the opener against Japan. Adrianna Franch got her first cap for the United States in the draw against England.
But on Tuesday, Ellis opted to start goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who is a Florida native. Harris stopped a free kick from Orlando Pride teammate Marta late in the match.
“I’m very proud of the shutout and I’m proud of the performance,” Harris said. “Moving forward we have to be better, though.”
The United States went ahead in the 20th minute when Heath buried a rebound while Brazil’s goalkeeper was out of position. It was Heath’s 27th international goal.
Alex Morgan remained one goal away from reaching 100 for her career, which will tie her with Tiffeny Milbrett for sixth on the team’s career list. She had a header in the 73rd minute that she lofted just wide.
Morgan led the team with 18 goals last year, and she has 26 goals over her last 30 national team matches.
Heath assessed the team’s overall performance afterward.
“I think there are a lot of things we can learn and grow from. On the defensive front it’s eliminating errors, figuring how we concede goals, why we concede goals, and fixing those things,” she said.
“Then on the attacking front it’s just converting, and I think that final piece, the final pass, the final finish. ... That’s where we’re at right now, and it’s not a bad place to be at,” Heath added. “The game’s the greatest teacher, and there’s a lot we can learn from this tournament.”
Earlier Tuesday, England scored all three goals in the first 30 minutes against Japan.
“This is nice, we’re happy, but for me it’s small compared to where we want to be,” England coach Phil Neville said. “This is just the first step.”
The United States will continue its 10-match tour in preparation for the World Cup next month, when the team faces Australia in Commerce City, Colorado, on April 4 and Belgium in Los Angeles on April 7. The Americans open World Cup group play on June 11 against Thailand.
England and Japan play in the same group in France and meet again on June 19.
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