TAMPA — The U.S. women's soccer team slogged through much of its match against England on Thursday night, unable to maintain any real offensive rhythm.
The 13,027 in attendance at Raymond James Stadium, the largest to watch the women's national team play in Tampa, was growing quieter by the minute and increasingly restless.
Enter Crystal Dunn.
Dunn, a second-half substitute, connected in the 72nd minute as the world's top-ranked Americans shook off an uneven performance to defeat No. 5 England 1-0 in their opening match of the inaugural SheBelieves Cup.
"Her goal was world-class," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "Hopefully it's on SportsCenter tonight."
Defender Meghan Klingenberg pushed up deep from back in her end and settled a ball along the left edge of the 18-yard box. She played it into Dunn, who with a defender on her back spun off and took one tough left.
Dunn then planted her foot a couple of yards inside the box and blistered a shot into the upper right corner of the goal past diving keeper Karen Bardsley.
"It definitely goes down as probably top-five (goals) in my whole career," Dunn said. "For me it was a really good feeling, and obviously we won the whole game, so that's what really counts."
Dunn, one of eight players on the roster who is 24 years old or younger, is on quite a roll.
The Rockville Centre, N.Y., native notched her seventh goal in as many matches, including a five-strike performance against Puerto Rico in last month's Olympic qualifying CONCACAF tournament in Texas. Dunn, who was the final cut off last summer's World Cup-winning squad, notched six goals during the qualifying tournament, earning the Golden Boot award for top scorer. She also leads the National Women's Soccer League with 15 goals.
"(Dunn's) back in here, she's done well and she deserves to be in here," Ellis said. "And this is what she can pull out, these exceptional efforts."
Hope Solo made two saves for her 96th career shutout and 145th win, extending her U.S. records.
The victory over England continues a torrid start to the year for the Americans. The United States, ranked No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings, earned its seventh straight victory to start the year. The Americans have outscored opponents 29-0 during that stretch.
"The team as a whole has been progressing since January," Dunn said. "We're tidying things up a bit. We have a new team, and we're putting all the pieces together."
In the night's first match, Leonie Maier scored in the 83rd minute as No. 2 Germany nipped France 1-0.
The crowd broke the attendance record at Raymond James Stadium of 9,799 that watched the U.S. team play France on June 14, 2014.
Up next for the Americans is a match Sunday in Nashville against third-ranked France as the SheBelieves Cup continues.