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U.S. women's national soccer team blanks Germany in 'fantastic test'

U.S. women's national soccer team blanks Germany in 'fantastic test'

CHESTER, Pa. -- The U.S. women's national team kicked off its 2017 campaign with a convincing win.

Lynn Williams and the USWNT pushed past a competitive German side to claim the 1-0 win in its first match of the 2017 SheBelieves Cup tournament on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

"Fantastic test," USWNT coach Jill Ellis said. "What we've been trying to do is work on playing all around, on very specific things. Germany is hard to break down and physically they are organized. Transitions are good. Every level we got tested. I think the confidence our players had on the ball and to play out, that was a big card to put in our back pocket."

Not perfect, as FIFA's top-ranked American-side slowly warmed to a new 3-4-1-2 formation, the victory was still a confidence-boosting one. Germany is the second-ranked team in the world. The match was both clubs' first in 2017. 

"We want to be playing teams like this," USWNT captain Carli Lloyd said. "It's going to test us and that's what we need, ultimately. There's no better tournament than this. We're going to have some great games lined up this year against some top teams. It's what we want and it's really where we can work on stuff and implement things." 

The USWNT broke the scoreless draw in the 56th minute, when Christen Press stole the ball from Isabel Kerschowski and tore into the box from the right side. Cutting aggressively to the middle, Press fired off a strong shot that deflected off the crossbar and in the direction of Tobin Heath, whose attempt deflected off a defender and to the feet of Lynn Williams for her second career goal and 1-0 USWNT lead.

"She defended really well, got the ball and took a great shot," said Williams, who was making her sixth cap. "Tobin was right there to put it back across and I happened to be there at the right time to put it in the goal."

The goal activated Williams, who came alive and nearly buried a second goal from the doorstep just minutes later, firing it high. The 23-year-old California native was subbed out in the 79th minute for Alex Morgan, but made an imprint on the game.

"It just gives me confidence," she said. "Every single time you come to this team you have to be on your A game. We still need to know how to play with each other, but the win in general is good for the team."

The match was a homecoming for the FIFA Women's Player of the Year award winner Lloyd and Julie Johnston. Lloyd, who is from Delran, New Jersey, made the start in the midfield, while defender Johnston, fiance of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, was not used.

"I thought we definitely outplayed them and we definitely could have had three or four more goals," Lloyd said. "I think the formation suits us. At the end of the day, it's soccer. We just have to move the ball and see what's on and we did that tonight and had some great attacks."

The USWNT will take on England on March 4 at Red Bull Arena.

Win over New York City FC casts Union as Eastern Conference players

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Win over New York City FC casts Union as Eastern Conference players

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — The Union’s convincing 2-0 decision Saturday night over New York City FC was more than just another August win. It was a statement. 

“The players realize it too,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, whose club has won four of its last six matches. “Let’s see us against a top team, we have to win a game against one of these top clubs. Now, we finally pushed over that hump.”

Although the Union players were reluctant to call the win special, the ability to take down one of the titans of the Eastern Conference is meaningful. NYCFC was 14-5-5 entering the match, and the Union took the decisive three points with a two-goal second-half outburst. 

“We’re showing that we can do something different, something important,” said Ilsinho, who added a highlight reel insurance goal late in the second half. “We can play against tough teams, we can play against very good teams. We beat them, but we have to stay focused.”

It was also important how the Union did it.

With a three-save shutout from Andre Blake and stout defensive play from center backs Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty, the Union, now 10-11-3, fed off their defense to wear NYCFC down. That’s not something they were capable of early in the season. 

“There’s just small margins in this league,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “I stress that every time we go out there at home, we gotta stay compact and keep a clean sheet. We were able to get those chances to put away. I think we’re looking good, but we just gotta keep going.”

While Saturday’s win was a signal the Union’s recent success is authentic, they’re still in a fight. As it stands, the Union are fifth in the East with 33 points — tied with Montreal Impact, who have played two more games — and four points ahead of the New England Revolution, who the Union face next at home. 

“We did a good job taking care of business against the teams that are around us or below us in the standings,” Curtin said. “To be a special group, to get a home playoff game, which is the long-term goal, you have to win games like this against top teams. We still have a long way to go, a lot of season left. We have to take points.” 

Union make statement in shutout win over New York City FC

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Union make statement in shutout win over New York City FC

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — With second-half goals from Cory Burke and Ilsinho, the Union wore down David Villa and New York City FC to claim the impressive 2-0 win Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. 

It was a highlight victory for the Union, who pushed their record to 10-11-3 on the season and took a bite of the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. NYCFC fell to 14-6-5. 

Andre Blake posted the three-save shutout. 

• It wasn’t just another game for the Union. Saturday was a litmus test for a club coming off a win Aug. 11 over struggling New England Revolution. Looking to climb up the East playoff ladder, the Union wanted to try themselves against one of the best teams in MLS. They passed. 

• It originally looked like another game of missed opportunities for the Union, as both David Accam and C.J. Sapong flunked golden chances to give the Union a lead. But as the Union pressed, NYCFC seemed to wear down. 

• The Union finally connected on a counter in the 57th minute to capture the 1-0 lead. Grabbing possession in the midfield, Borek Dockal threaded a long pass to streaking Burke, who edged his defender to gain the box and fired a shot that beat Sean Johnson to his left. 

• Burke has been a godsend for the Union. The goal was his sixth of the season and fourth in six games. He’s been an intricate part of the club’s playoff push. 

• The assist was also Dockal’s fifth in five games and 11th on the season. He’s quietly been a force for the surging club.

• Ilsinho entered the match in the 68th minute for David Accam, who made the start for suspended Fafa Picault. Accam was active, collecting three shots on goal, but he wasn’t as dangerous as the Union needed. It was Ilinsho’s first game action since July 11, but you wouldn't know it.

• In the 76th minute, Ilsinho did what Ilsinho does. Like a shot of adrenaline to the Union attack, Ilsinho split two defenders with a move, then dodged a third, cutting inside for the left-footed goal. It was his fifth of the season.

• The Brazilian’s success must have got under the skin of NYCFC’s Ronaldo Matarrita, who took a red-card, studs-up run at Ilsinho moments after the two clashed around a dead ball. He was ejected.

• Fabian Herbers, who has been involved in recent Union lineup decisions, missed the match to attend his sister’s wedding. With Ilsinho back in the mix, it wasn’t a sure thing Herbers would have made the 18. 

• Next up, the Union host the beatable Revolution on Aug. 25. It’s yet another opportunity to claw up the East standings and catch the Columbus Crew at the four spot.