After the important 5-3 win over Australia in Colorado on Thursday, the first-ever meeting for the U.S. women with no. 20 Belgium on Sunday at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles figured to be light work.
The Red Flames were no match for the Americans, who maintained constant pressure from the first minute and had the game well in hand by the middle of the first half.
There were six line-up changes for the U.S., including placing Carli Lloyd into the starting list, as well as Ali Krieger as right back. Off a free kick in the 14th minute, Lloyd was closely marked, but still got her head on the ball and ripped it past Belgian keeper Nicky Evrard for a 1-0 lead. It was her 106th career goal for the U.S. But there were clearly more to come.
It only took six minutes for another Lloyd goal, on another header off a Crystal Dunn cross that found the right side of the Belgian goal. The lead grew to 3-0 in the 26th minute on a Lindsey Horan header into the right side of the net off another Press assist.
A laser off the head of Sam Mewis off an out-swinging Press corner kick sailed into the Belgian goal in the 33rd minute and the issue was well decided, all on headers.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis made a load of substitutions for the second half, but the scoring continued. Sub Alex Morgan scored her 101st career goal for the U.S. off a Lloyd pass into the box in the 52nd minute for a 5-0 lead. Belgium’s Janice Cayman hit the post in the 78th minute for the best chance for the Red Flames, but U.S. keepers Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris managed to post a shutout.
A last goal came in stoppage time, as another Press free kick found the head of Jessica McDonald in front of the goal and the ricochet popped over Evrard for the 6-0 final.
Belgium is not playing in the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the game was hardly the test that the prior six games this year – all against World Cup teams – have been. But it did showcase Lloyd’s skills and in a World Cup tournament that will have ups and downs, having someone of her talent available off the bench could end up being crucial.
After a 1-1-2 start, the U.S. women have won three in a row and scored 11 goals to three in those games. The U.S. women are off until their final tune-up series starting on 7 May in Santa Clara, California against South Africa, followed by games vs. New Zealand and Mexico.