USWNT defeated by England in record crowd at Wembley in shadow of Yates report


The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) was defeated 2-1 by England at Wembley Stadium. It was an international friendly that spotlighted both the rising popularity of women’s football and its failures.

Both teams, touted as a duel between the world and European champions, had shown impressive form in recent months – the USWNT went unbeaten in 21 games and England went unbeaten in 23 games, including winning Euro 2022.

But preparation for the game was dominated by things off the field as professional women’s soccer in the US was reeling from an independent investigation that found systematic abuse and wrongdoing within the sport.

“It was an extremely difficult week for everyone and I’m proud of the players for being on the pitch and playing the game at all,” US head coach Vltako Andonovski said after the game, according to the BBC. “It was’nt easy.

“I applaud their courage and I applaud their fearless mentality and relentlessness. Once again they have shown that nothing can stop them from playing the game they love. I’m very proud of her and I hope we never have to go through that again.”

Before kick-off, both teams came together and held up a banner that read ‘Protect the Players’ while Wembley Arch was illuminated with blue-green lights to show their support for the abuse victims.

“First of all, if the players aren’t protected, then you don’t have a game, you don’t have anything. To put that at the forefront of such an important night and game was truly amazing and powerful for all of us,” American soccer star Megan Rapinoe said after the game, per Sky Sports.

Both teams wore teal armbands throughout the game as a further sign of support.

“Take the time to do that, get the bracelets – I think they were flown in from California and a little tight for some people, I’m glad I have a skinny arm – just an incredible show from all of us, some things are bigger than the game and we got to show that,” Rapinoe added.

“Obviously the report came out about our league, but… it’s probably a global issue too. To everyone in the stands tonight that was affected, obviously all the players, just to show that kind of support on a night like this.

And the night demonstrated the growing reach of women’s football as 76,893 fans gathered at Wembley Stadium – the busiest friendly in USWNT history – to watch as both teams began to optimize their preparations for next year’s World Cup.

England took the lead after just nine minutes when Beth Mead played a ball into the box that escaped US defender Alana Cook and landed at the feet of Lauren Hemp, who deflected the ball into goal.

Although England continued to threaten, the American defense stood firm and the USWNT equalized less than 20 minutes later when Sophia Smith capitalized on an error to fire the ball past England goalkeeper Mary Earps.

“[Smith] seemed like she had made a name for herself. But we must not forget that she is 21 years old,” US head coach Vltako Andovnoski told the media after the game, according to CBS Sports.

“Coming into an environment like this and making a difference… it just shows the potential that she has. I think we didn’t see the best of her [yet].

“These are games that will drive Soph’s development and I’m excited to see what it will be like in six months, in nine months.”

Sophia Smith is one of the rising stars of USWNT.

But England restored their lead shortly after when VAR intervened and awarded the home side a penalty after a high foot from Hailie Mace struck Lucy Bronze in the head. Georgia Stanway converted to a 2-1 lead.

And the free-flowing first half seemed to show no sign of abating as Smith opened up the English defense for Rapinoe, who supplied Trinity Rodman for a goal. But once again the VAR intervened in England’s favour, ruling that Smith had been narrowly offside in the substitution.

The second half was an overall tentative affair as England missed two opportunities to extend their lead, giving the USWNT a glimmer of hope.

When the referee awarded the Americans a handball penalty just 10 minutes from time, that glimmer grew a little, but replays reversed the decision and England held on to their first win against the reigning world champions since 2017.

“You are the best team in the world when you have won the World Cup. We haven’t,” England head coach Sarina Wiegman told reporters, according to Reuters. “We are in a good place, but there are so many good countries.

“We just have to do what we can, control, stick together and communicate with each other at all times. We must have the freedom to make our own decisions in the game. I think we’re doing well.”