Sunday night’s epic comeback against Brazil at the 2017 Tournament of Nations in San Diego was vintage U.S. WNT. The “do not count us out” mentality that the team has shown throughout the years was evident once again on the glistening pitch at Qualcomm Stadium.
More recently, the USA came back from allowing two early goals to France in the opening game of the 2012 Olympics to tie the game going into the at half and then won 4-2. In the semifinal of that tournament, the USA played an unforgettable match with Canada, coming back from a goal down three times to tie it and then won it on a 123rd-minute header from Alex Morgan that is still the latest goal scored in FIFA history.
Then of course, there are the games against Brazil.
In 2004, Abby Wambach clinched the Olympic gold medal against Brazil with a game-winning header in overtime off a corner kick from Kristine Lilly. In 2008, Carli Lloyd did the same, also against Brazil, scoring a dramatic overtime strike. In 2011, Wambach netted a game-tying goal against Brazil, her spectacular and famous header, in the 122nd minute to send the World Cup quarterfinal game to penalty kicks – which the USA eventually won. Fast forward to 2017, and a wild game once again ensued between two perennial powers in women’s soccer, this time on U.S. soil.
The USA rallied to score three goals in nine minutes at the end of the match and earn a 4-3 win against Brazil after being down 3-1 with 12 minutes to go in the game.
“We talked about the energy and the attitude coming into this game,” head coach Jill Ellis said following the thriller. “It was the classic will of this program in terms of gutting it out and the never-say-die kind of attitude. And now all these young players have experienced it too and that’s a massive takeaway for us.”
With the momentum in Brazil’s favor after scoring off a free kick in the 78th minute to extend its lead to 3-1, the WNT had little time to mount a response, but there was enough to get it done.
“It was really important for us as a group tonight to just refuse to lose tonight and take back the momentum whatever way we could,” Christen Press, who started the comeback with her goal in the 80th minute.
Press’ goal came off a beautiful slipped pass from Megan Rapinoe into the left side of the penalty area that the Chicago Red Stars forward finished fantastically into the upper left corner. Five minutes later Press repaid the favor, sent a ball across the field into the left side of the penalty area. In one motion, Rapinoe brought the ball down and smashed it home from an almost impossibly difficult angle. Four minutes after that it was Julie Ertz who scored the game-winner to send the crowd of 21,096 fans at Qualcomm Stadium into a frenzy.
“I came on when it was 1-1,” Press said. “The we took two goals and we were down 3-1 and we just felt that we had our back against the wall. And that’s when you shoot the most free, when you have nothing to lose. I’ve watched this team on the bench and from home comeback so many times in big games and it was cool to be a part of that. It was cool to feel like an important player in that.”
Another impactful piece on Sunday’s U.S. WNT comeback was Megan Rapinoe, who had two assists and a goal – her first with the WNT since she scored a brace against Australia on June 8, 2015 in Winnipeg at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“Megan has been building and building,” Ellis said following the game. “She’s worked so hard to get back to this. There’s a quality to her, and a strength and a power to her that’s very impressive. She’s always going to bring the technical piece but she has a big engine.”
A new chapter was written on the USA-Brazil rivalry on Sunday night at Qualcomm Stadium. And while the USA is no stranger to epic comebacks, this one will hold a special place in U.S. WNT lore.
“The history of this team is, no matter what, you always have to find a way,” said U.S. captain Carli Lloyd.
That way this time has set the stage for an exciting conclusion to the Tournament of the Nations on Aug. 3 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. In order to win the tournament, the USA would need Brazil to beat an Australian team that is running on all cylinders, and then the USA needs to defeat Japan while overturning three scores in overall goal difference.
Another game, another chance to find a way.