U.S. beats France for Algarve Cup title
The United States not only avenged last month's stinging loss to France with its 10th Algarve Cup title, the Americans addressed concerns about their readiness for the Women's World Cup.
Hope Solo stopped a late penalty kick to preserve her 81st international shutout and lead the U.S. over France 2-0 Wednesday night at Faro, Portugal.
Julie Johnston and Christen Press scored for the second-ranked U.S., which rebounded from a 0-0 draw against Iceland on Monday. Solo made her 160th start in goal, passing Briana Scurry for the American record.
It was Solo's third shutout of the tournament, the U.S. team's last before the World Cup in Canada. She started every Algarve match for the United States.
"We're on the right track to peak for the World Cup, which is still three months away," Solo said. "We're not at our best yet but we're getting there."
No. 3 France had defeated the U.S. 2-0 last month in an exhibition in Lorient, the first win for Les Bleus in 17 games against the Americans. It was the U.S. team's 20th Algarve Cup appearance and first title since 2013.
Johnston got her third start at center back this year as coach Jill Ellis continued to adjust her lineups in the team's last tournament before the World Cup in Canada.
Amy Rodriguez started up front for the first time in the tournament with Alex Morgan, while Abby Wambach entered in the 85th.
There were questions surrounding the team this year following the loss to France, as well as the 0-0 tie against No. 20 Iceland to close the Algarve's group stage.
But the United States came out attacking France from the start. Johnston scored her first international goal in the seventh minute on a header off a free kick from Lauren Holiday.
"We started the game on the front foot and, obviously, got a goal, which was great," Ellis said. "We knew it was going to be a 90-minute battle, but I thought our physical presence was solid. I thought we got numbers around the ball and we limited the space better than we did before when we played them."
Solo, who was serving a team-imposed 30-day suspension when the United States lost at Lorient, made a key save on a long drive from Kheira Hamraoui in the 40th minute. Moments later, Press drove past a group of defenders and slotted the ball into the net.
Solo tipped a shot over the bar in the 71st minute and dived on Amandine Henry's penalty kick in the 81st after defender Meghan Klingenberg was whistled for grabbing Marie-Laure Delie's arm.
"It's one of those things that you never know what you're going to do when you step on the line. I stayed calm, I stayed relaxed and made the save," said Solo, who finished with seven saves.
The U.S. is 15-1-2 against France, including 4-0 in the Algarve Cup, a tournament Les Bleus have not won in six appearances.
"We came here with a certain game plan, certain things we wanted to work on, and today we executed the game plan and scored two fantastic goals," U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd said. "We closed out the tournament on a high note which was a good boost for us."
The Americans return home for a series of exhibition matches that serve as a sendoff for the team before it opens the World Cup on June 8 against Australia in Winnipeg, Manitoba. France plays its World Cup opener the next day against England in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Nine of the 12 teams playing in the Algarve Cup were headed to the World Cup. In the third-place match Wednesday, top-ranked Germany defeated Sweden 2-1. Defending World Cup champion Japan beat Iceland 2-0, Brazil defeated Switzerland 4-1; Norway beat Denmark 5-2 and Portugal downed China on penalty kicks after a 3-3 tie.
The French team wore black armbands in honor of the three French athletes -- swimmer Camille Muffat, boxer Alexis Vastine and pioneering sailor Florence Arthaud -- who were killed in a helicopter crash in Argentina on Monday. There was a moment of silence before the match.