The Tournament of Nations has concluded for 2018, and the United States have come away as the victors after defeating Brazil 4-1 in front of 18,309 supporters in Toyota Park.
The four-team tournament featuring USA, Australia, Brazil, and Japan saw several Chicago Red Stars on international duty as the tournament kicked off on July 26. Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Morgan Brian, and Casey Short all represent the United States and saw time during the three matches, while star striker Sam Kerr competed with Australia.
The final matchday took place in Bridgeview, IL at Toyota Park with Australia facing off against Japan, and USA playing against Brazil. Both Australia and the US were in a position to win the tournament with wins on the final day by two goals.
Australia’s Matildas turned things on in the second half against Japan where they ended up winning 2-0. One of the goals came via Chicago Red Star Sam Kerr, who mentioned in a post game mixed zone how playing at Toyota Park feels like home.
“I haven’t scored as many as I’d like here, but it’s nice to score here.” Kerr joked, who joined the Red Stars late this season after Australia’s World Cup qualifiers back in April.
With Chicagoland being the third and final stop of the Tournament, and when asked about taking her teammates around her club hometown she jokes about it, saying, “Yeah I did actually and I knew my way around for once.”
“I really like Chicago. It was a nice change from the other two cities, It’s obviously an amazing city. The coffee is good so we’re all happy.”
The familiar surroundings were an added comfort for Kerr, who recognizes the home field advantage, saying, “It’s nice, kinda before the game, feeling at home here. The days leading up I felt comfortable knowing where I was and that just helps a bit. But Toyota Park is lovely to play on, so, anytime you get to play out there it’s special.”
The prior matches leading into the final game day saw Red Stars midfielder Morgan Brian get starts against Japan and Australia, while Chicago’s captain Julie Ertz started all three matches. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher got the starts in net for all matches, while Casey Short provided defensive depth off the bench this tournament.
In the final match against Brazil, the United States went down early in the first half after an own goal by defender Tierna Davidson in the 16th minute. USA equalized in the 33rd minute with a goal from Rose Lavelle.
In the second half things opened up for the US, as Julie Ertz gave the US their second goal and the lead as they went up 2-1 in the 53rd minute. Ertz credits her sliding goal to the play of her teammates saying
“I think regardless when you go up in the lead it definitely kind of changes the momentum of the game for sure. Without Pinoes’s [Rapinoe] run to the near post it doesnt allow me to get open. So I give most of the credit to her and obviously Tobin for playing such an amazing ball but I think obviously we needed to win by two goals so we knew that we had to get numbers into the box as well so that’s kinda what we talked about at halftime.”
After the US scored their third goal, a brilliant shot from Tobin Heath, Casey Short subbed on in the 69th minute. Playing a more defensive role in closing out the match, head coach Jill Ellis praised Short in her role during a post game conference.
“I think Shorty [Casey Short] is, she’s very steady. I think to come into this game tonight, I thought she was very good tonight, kept it simple, and obviously she’s a phenomenal defender.”
It’s no secret that Ellis wants her outside backs to get more involved in the attack in general, and emphasized as much in post game comments. In encouraging the attacking outlook of the role, Ellis recognizes the defensive option Short can play for the team.
“I think Shorty is a player that we always encourage her to get forward and want to take on - I think she’s showed that tonight by being higher up the pitch. She’s a very very good defender, and a player that we want to encourage to continue to get forward. But we need players that can shut [down] - that can neutralize our opponents for sure.”
The defensive efforts of the backline were complemented by the offense produced on the night. The Stars and Stripes would continue to score in the second half with a fourth goal from Alex Morgan and the match ended 4-1 with the United States winning the trophy.
After three matches against top international squads all 5 Red Stars will return to their club squad for another home match at Toyota Park on August 10 against league leaders North Carolina Courage.