HARRISON, N.J. — With the next Women’s World Cup not until 2019 in France, U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis has some time to experiment and tinker with her team.
She has given newcomers their first international experience and has tried a new formation that uses three instead of four players on the backline and deploys a five-woman midfield that features two hard-running wingers.
So, a loss at this juncture isn’t the end of the world, even though it may hurt. Ellis and the team looked at Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to England in the SheBelieves Cup before a capacity crowd of 26,500 frigid fans at Red Bull Arena as a learning experience.
“Sometimes you don’t learn about the details of the game, how important they are unless you sometimes unfortunately pay a price,” she said.
The Americans paid a price as England’s Ellen White scored the deciding goal in the 89th minute. Tobin Heath cleared a corner kick that England’s Lucy Bronze latched onto and drilled a half-volley off the crossbar. The ball bounded down in the penalty area and White shook off defenders Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn and knocked the ball into the net past goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
“So would I rather learn those lessons now? For sure,” Ellis said. “I think sometimes you fail, the lesson hits home harder in terms of you feel the sting of it.”
It was a sting the U.S. hasn’t felt too often on American soil, losing at home for only the second time since 2004.
England head coach Mark Sampson called it “the best result” of his coaching tenure. “I genuinely feel we are only scratching the surface.”
Playing in her first international game was 21-year-old Rose Lavelle, a member of the Boston Breakers (National Women’s Soccer League) who put in an impressive performance and looked more like a seasoned international with her ability to get open, mostly on the left side.
“I definitely was nervous the first couple of touches, then the adrenaline starts going,” Lavelle said. “I am used to being in the middle and the flank was a little different. I felt I got my groove as the game went on.”
Especially in the 18th minute when her close-range attempt from the left side was saved by goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
“I think I hit it right at the goalie, but yeah, I wish I could have buried that one,” she said.
At the final whistle the temperature dropped to 23 degrees with the wind chill factor at nine degrees
“With the cold air, it’s funny. Because with heat you feel a different way phsycially and with cold your lungs actually frozen,” midfielder Crystal Dunn of Rockville Centre said. “Each breath was like ugh! The communication was hard out there. Our lips were starting to freeze. It was definitely a challenge.”
“At one point I couldn’t really feel my hands, but it’s fine because I can feel them now,” Lavelle said. “No permanent damage.”