U.S. Soccer completed the Memorial Day weekend sweep, with the Women’s National Team defeating China 4-1 one day after the Men’s National Team defeated Scotland 5-1.
Alex Morgan racked up two more on the night for 24 all-time in just 39 appearances. The new face of U.S. Women’s soccer (and if you don’t believe me, check out this Panasonic VIERA ad), Morgan now has scored at least two goals in six career international appearances (hat tip: ESPN’s Paul Carr).
Despite the end result, it wasn’t as much of a cakewalk for the women as it was for the men the night before. The U.S. started slowly, nearly finding themselves down in the opening minutes as a shot from Pang Han from the left side of the six yard box banged off the crossbar. After a few off-target chances early, they found their first threat in the 21st minute when Morgan collected an OʻReilly serve into the middle of the box and banged it on goal, only to be blocked by the keeper. It bounced out to Lloyd for another chance, but it was deflected away.
But just minutes later, poor play through the midfield and defensive miscues by the U.S. left China’s Rui Zhang wide open on the left side, and she was able to slot one past Solo toward the far post for a 1-0 China lead in the 23rd minute.
It wasn’t long before the U.S. collected themselves, however, and the Alex Morgan Show was off to the races. Morgan nabbed her first goal in the 34th minute, off a pass through the middle and over the top from Heather O’Reilly. “Baby Horse”, as the 22-year old Morgan is affectionately known, corralled the pass with her head, brought it down for one touch before striking from just inside the penalty area to sink it in the back of the net. The goal equalized the game at 1 and brought new life back into the crowd.
Two minutes later, the U.S. was threatening in China’s penalty area again, when a defensive error by China’s Zhou Gaoping led to her heading the ball into her own net, for a 2-1 USA lead.
From there, the U.S. never looked back. They opened the second half more poised, with a crisper midfield presence after Lauren Cheney subbed in for Carli Lloyd in the center, and Amy Rodriguez took over on the right flank for O’Reilly. It wasn’t long before they were able to tally another goal, after Morgan took a Christie Rampone pass in the 50th minute and and muscled past her defender to net her second of the evening.
Abby Wambach slotted home the fourth and final goal of the night in the 83rd minute, her 135th career international goal, on a throw-in from Morgan that took her to the end line. She crossed it in from what appeared to be a nearly impossible angle. But… it’s Abby.
Fan favorite Sydney Leroux got into the action in the 80th minute, coming on for Amy LePeilbet as the team went into a 3-4-3 formation pushing for speed up top. Leroux nearly had the game’s fifth goal just minutes after Wambach’s when she struck a bullet on target from 20 yards out, but it was saved by Zhang Yue. In the closing minute, Leroux just missed another chance at goal as a cross from Cheney found her along the left post, but Leroux couldn’t quite get to it to knock it in.
The women played to a sellout crowd of 18,573 at PPL Park, home of MLS’s Philadelphia Union, but home viewers were once again snubbed by the television networks – because nobody cares about women’s soccer, right?
USSoccer.com came to the rescue yesterday with the announcement that they would carry a live web stream, and for that, U.S. WNT fans are grateful, even if the broadcast quality was poor and the graphics appeared to come out of a match from 1982.
Earlier in the day, head coach Pia Sundhage announced her 18-woman roster for the Summer Olympics. There are no big surprises, but I’d like to have seen Lori Lindsey get the nod as a backup central midfielder, though it looks as if Lauren Cheney might fill that role well.
U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (6): Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach
Despite how she’s impressed in the last few months, I wasn’t sure if we’d see Leroux make the roster, but it looks as if Sundhage is looking for more speed up top late in matches, particularly to complement Morgan. Against better front lines than China, the U.S. won’t have the luxury of moving into a 3-4-3 late in games in the Olympics, but with Buehler winning more balls and serving well into the midfield, and how well O’Hara has stepped up as a solid left back with the ability to help in the attack, the defense should be improved since the World Cup.