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USWNT ends series against Russia with 5-1 win

Crystal Dunn notched yet another brace in the USWNT's 5-1 win over Russia. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Crystal Dunn notched yet another brace in the USWNT’s 5-1 win over Russia. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

The United States women’s national team once again defeated Russia by a four-goal deficit, beating the Russians 5-1. The win comes on the heels of the U.S.’s 4-0 shutout of the European squad Thursday night, with Crystal Dunn scoring a brace in both contests.

Today’s match marked the second game head coach Jill Ellis resorted back to a 4-4-2 lineup, much to the relief of fans who questioned the effectiveness of the 3-back system in the wake of the USWNT’s fourth-place finish in the SheBelieves Cup. With the return of the 4-4-2 came the return of the attacking full-backs, Kelley O’Hara and Meghan Klinbenberg, for the first time since the September Olympic fan appreciation matches. Before Thursday night, Klingenberg had not seen the field for the USWNT since those matches as she’s been recovering from a back injury suffered back in May 2016. Likewise O’Hara had seen limited time as Ellis has experimented with the 3-back formation that incorporated newer faces to the the team. Both O’Hara and Klingenberg heavily contributed to the U.S.’s attack in the first half today, with O’Hara creating a number of opportunities from the right and Klingenberg recording an assist.

Klingenberg nearly scored in just the 8th minute when she broke into space in the final third and took a shot, but Julia Grichenko made a brilliant kick save to keep Klingenberg from putting the U.S. on the board. Rose Lavelle followed Klingenberg’s shot with a through ball to Mallory Pugh, but Grichenko just got a hand on the ball to cut off Pugh’s angle and force the ball out for a USWNT corner kick.

O’Hara repeated Thursday night’s performance by playing high and joining in the attack from her spot at right back. The forward-turned-defender put a good shot on goal for the U.S. just five minutes later when she passed the ball to Lloyd before making a fast run down the right flank. Lloyd’s pass found O’Hara, who turned and went 1v1 with the keeper, only to have her shot punched clear.

Despite a number of shots on target and close scrambles inside the box, the U.S. finally found their way on the board in the 20th minute when Casey Short fought to maintain possession and sent a pass through traffic to Dunn. Dunn was tripped up in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot, awarding the USWNT a penalty. Carli Lloyd lined up to take the spot and placed a low ball just inside the near post to convert. The goal is Lloyd’s 97th international goal, putting her well on pace to reach the 100-goal landmark this year.

It was a quieter game from Lavelle compared to her dynamic performance Thursday night, although she continued to slip in centrally to get looks on goal, and she sent in a number of crosses from the flanks to try to create opportunities for her teammates. However, the midfielder did score her first goal in a USA jersey in the 37th minute after receiving a long ball sent in from Mallory Pugh. Lavelle took a touch to control the ball at the top of the box and went 1v1 with Grichenko, perfectly knocking the ball past the keeper’s outstretched body for the U.S.’s second goal of the match, the eventual game winner. 

Less than a minute later, Carli Lloyd intercepted a pass from Russia and sent a long ball to Klingenberg racing down the left flank. Klingenberg drove the ball inside the 18 before sending a cross in front of the goal for Crystal Dunn, who karate kicked the ball into the back of the net to further increase the U.S.’s lead.

Russia was able to get one back late in the first half when Short was awarded a yellow card and Russia was awarded a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. The foul occurred when a Russian player fell back into Short while both went for a header. Nadezhda Karpova took the shot and blasted it high and center past Ashlyn Harris, who dove to her right, to score for Russia and prevent a shutout. The next Russian goal would be an own goal after Carli Lloyd’s header deflected off a Russian player and into the goal to put the U.S. up 4-1 just before the halftime whistle.

The USWNT started the second half in a hurry with Casey Short slipping a ball in for Pugh on the right side. Pugh then sent a cross in for Dunn, who was in easy scoring position and easily knocked the ball past Grichenko.

The second half was less exciting than the first, with fewer goals and goal-scoring opportunities for the U.S. That’s largely because of Grichenko, who had an impressive display in goal for Russia despite the scoreline. She prevented the U.S. from scoring after the 48th minute, an impressive task for any keeper.

One of the most exciting parts of the second half was something that happened off the field, as goalkeeper Jane Campbell made her debut with the senior USWNT subbing in for Harris in the 74th minute. Although the late substitution against a team that was visibly tired did not give Campbell much of a test, it was a rare goalkeeper substitution by head coach Jill Ellis and should serve to get any first-cap jitters out of the way for Campbell.

All in all, today’s win was the typical friendly against an out-matched opponent for the USWNT, and much of the game went exactly as expected. Which, after the disappointment of SheBelieves, was no doubt a comfort for many USWNT fans.

Most USWNT players will next report to their NWSL clubs in preparation for the start of the fifth season for the league, which kicks off on Saturday, April 15. Lloyd and Dunn will return to their FA WSL club Chelsea Ladies and Manchester City Women respectively, while Alex Morgan returns to Olympique Lyonnais. Lloyd and Morgan will face off in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals on April 22 and April 29. 

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