There wasn’t any doubt that the U.S. Women’s National Team would beat Mexico on Sunday in its final tune-up match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. But how it happened gave some encouraging signs for what might happen in France next month.
The U.S. was the better side throughout and took the lead right away. A lazy clearance by Mexican keeper Carmen Santiago was intercepted at the top of the box by Tobin Heath, who then rifled a left-footed shot past Santiago and into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
But that was it in the first half, despite the U.S. have repeated chances. But Mexico did not put any pressure on the U.S. defense and American coach Jill Ellis substituted five players in to start the second half. Out came strikers Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe and in were Carli Lloyd and Christen Press, along with Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh and Allie Long. These moves paid dividends.
Although the score remained 1-0, the U.S. continued to control the match and Lloyd and Pugh finally combined for a second goal in the 76th minute. Lloyd dribbled almost the entire final third of the field, came right up to the Mexican goal and as she looked to shoot, popped the ball past a defender and the onrushing Pugh pushed in into the net.
Now the game was certainly decided, but Press added an exclamation point with an 88th-minute, left-footed strike from the top of the box that whipped past Santiago into the corner of the net for the 3-0 final.
Interestingly, Heath played some left back during the second half, but still found opportunities to move up into the offensive end. As the left defensive side has been the biggest problem for the U.S. in 2019, this could be a sign of things to come in France. And the added offense from being able to bring Lloyd or Press or both in gives Ellis considerable flexibility if the usual stars are not shining for the U.S.
The U.S. finished their pre-World Cup prep with a six-match winning streak and a combined 23-3 scoring edge and four shutouts in a row. That’s a lot better than the 1-1-2 start, but the competition will get tougher soon.
The American women improved their all-time standing vs. Mexico to 36-1-1.
The U.S. men lost their FIFA U-20 World Cup opener to Ukraine, 2-1, in Bielsko-Biala (POL) on Friday. The U.S. will play Nigeria on Monday in its second of three group games.
In Group A, Senegal (2-0) is already on its way to the playoffs, as is Italy (2-0) in Group B. Group play will continue through the end of the month.
Look for results here.