The World Cup prep match was tied 1-1 at halftime but the U.S. women’s national team shifted into a higher gear after intermission and went on to defeat Mexico by a 5-1 score line.
John D. Halloran
May 18, 2015
IT TOOK THE UNITED STATES women’s national team the better part of 60 minutes to get going against Mexico on Sunday evening in Carson, Calif., but once it did, the Americans tallied four second-half goals en route to a 5-1 victory.
Stymied by a combination of good goalkeeping and missed chances in the first half, the U.S. entered the locker room even with Mexico at a goal apiece before breaking out in the second stanza. The game was the second of three World Cup “Send-Off Series” matches and the goals came from Sydney Leroux (2), Lori Chalupny, and Abby Wambach (2).
Here are three thoughts from the match.
Leroux Finally Back in Form
With Alex Morgan still out injured and Amy Rodriguez suffering from the stomach flu, head coach Jill Ellis opted to start Christen Press and Sydney Leroux up top. For Leroux, in particular, the match represented a big opportunity.
Early in 2014, Leroux was in fine form, but that changed last summer when she entered a serious, year-long, goal-scoring funk. The 25-year-old attacker entered the game against Mexico having only scored two goals in her last 17 U.S. matches.
However, on Sunday, Leroux took the opportunity and ran with it, scoring twice and creating a number of good opportunities for her teammates. Leroux has always had a great combination of pace and power but against Mexico her finishing touch returned as she helped lead the U.S. to victory.
The Offense Looked Better
Overall, the U.S. offense showed more against Mexico than it did a week ago against the Republic of Ireland. Despite some outstanding play by Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago, the U.S.’s high pressure eventually overwhelmed El Tri’s defense en route to the blowout win.
Morgan Brian was deployed out wide in a move that worked surprisingly well. Despite playing out of position—a sometimes maddening habit of Ellis’—Brian provided good service and a solid work rate from the wing.
Megan Rapinoe, playing on the other flank, couldn’t get off the mark, but did hit four solid shots on frame—all of which were saved. She also scored on a wonderful volley in the 89th minute, but the goal was disallowed.
As a second-half substitute, Tobin Heath also provided one of the best moments of the match when she assisted on Abby Wambach’s goal. Heath used an elastico to round Kenti Robles in the 72nd minute before chipping in a beautiful floated cross to Wambach on the far post.
And finally, Carli Lloyd continued to prove why she is the engine of this U.S. team, covering an immense amount of ground and starting the bulk of the U.S.’s most dangerous attacks, especially in the first half.
While the U.S. earned a well-deserved “feel good” score line against the 25th-ranked Mexicans, the team still can’t be sure of where it stands in its World Cup preparations. Nor will it find out in the final “Send-Off Series” match two weeks from now against the Korean Republic, a second-tier team ranked 18th in the world.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo was really only tested twice against Mexico. On the first occasion, in the 30th minute of play, Solo did well to come down with the ball in traffic—even after being bumped in the air. On the second occasion, in the 39th minute, Solo came off her line on a Mexican set piece and didn’t win the ball as it was headed into the back of the net for Mexico’s lone goal.
The Americans also won’t find out until Canada how it will hold up at left back—which will almost certainly be Meghan Klingenberg or Lori Chalupny—a position which looked vulnerable against France earlier this year. And finally, will Wambach—who has been good against Ireland and Mexico—be able to contribute against the higher-quality teams the U.S. will see in the World Cup group stage and beyond?
The U.S.’ match against Korea is on May 30 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.