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USWNT opens 2018 with 5-1 win over Denmark

USWNT celebrates one of five goals against Denmark in the 2018 opener (photo copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The United States women’s national team (USWNT) opened 2018 with a rousing 5-1 win over the No. 12 team in the world, Denmark. Although Nadia Nadim put the 2017 European Championship runners-up on the board first, Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn combined for five unanswered goals to give the U.S. their first win of the year.

The USWNT came out looking like the better team in the opening minutes of the match, but it would be Denmark who’d get on the board first, thanks to Denmark forward and former Portland Thorn Nadim. Denmark captain and Nadim’s partner up top, Pernille Harder, played a dangerous ball in front of goal, but the U.S. defense successfully knocked it out for a corner kick. The Danes crowded the box on the set piece, and it was Nadim that got her head on the ball and perfectly placed it just inside the near post to give Denmark the first goal of the match.

Denmark’s lead would be short-lived, though, as Mallory Pugh and Alex Morgan would combine to equalize just minutes later. Morgan fired off one shot on goal, but Denmark keeper Stine Lykke Petersen made the save to deny her. However, her attempt at resetting play for her side backfired as Pugh stripped Katrine Veje of possession of Petersen’s ball, ran towards the box, and sent a cross in for Morgan, who beat the keeper and a defender to the ball, tapping it home for the equalizer.

The U.S. would then take the lead in the 21st minute off an Ertz goal off a set piece, although not in her usual way. Abby Dahlkemper received the ball and sent it into the box where Tierna Davidson, the Stanford sophomore who earned her first start in her first cap with the USWNT, headed the ball toward goal. Although her header was too short to score on its own, it was perfectly placed for Ertz to get her foot on it and send Davidson’s ball past Petersen and into the net for what would end up being the game-winning tally.

Pugh opened the second half with a goal of her own before adding a second to score her first international brace in the same stadium where she scored her first international goal. Her first goal on the night came in the 47th minute when she intercepted a back pass intended for defender Janni Arnth and made a break towards goal. She cut right to get around Arnth and fired off a shot from inside the box and into the upper 90 to put the U.S. up, 4-1. 

She then scored again in the 65th minute when Petersen sent the ball right to her, setting her up for another run inside the box resulting in a blasting shot that flew right past Petersen, unable to make the save to prevent Pugh from again capitalizing on her error.

Denmark nearly got one back in the 75th minute after Ertz’s yellow card-worthy foul on midfielder Sanne Troelsgaard resulted in a Denmark free kick well within striking distance. Harder had her best attempt on goal all night off the free kick and looked to have U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher beat with the shot, but she was denied by the crossbar.

Carli Lloyd, who entered the match off the bench early in the second half, was also denied five minutes later, although controversially so. Savannah McCaskill, also making her senior USWNT debut just days after being taken by Boston as the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s NWSL College Draft, sent in a U.S. corner kick, which Lloyd headed on goal. However, the Danish player on the post cleared the ball off the line and it was collected by the keeper. Although it appeared that Lloyd’s header completely crossed the line and that the defender was inside the goal when she cleared it, no goal was awarded and play continued.

Instead, it was Crystal Dunn, who also entered the match in the second half alongside McCaskill, Christen Press and Lynn Williams in the 70th minute, who scored the fifth and final goal for the U.S. With the ball at her feet, Williams raced towards the end line and sent in a cross for Press, whose shot was saved by Petersen. However, Petersen failed to collect the ball, and Dunn knocked in the rebound to seal the USWNT’s victory.

The USWNT now concludes its January camp and will not reconvene until its camp leading into the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, which kicks off on March 1 in Columbus, Ohio. In the meantime, the NWSL players rostered with the U.S. national team will join their clubs for preseason, scheduled to start on Monday, February 19.

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