Tom Sermanni utilized the Algarve Cup on Friday just as he should as manager of the world’s No. 1 team: as a place to experiment.
A young, relatively inexperienced US team dismantled China 5-0 as five different goal scorers got on the board.
The young lineup offered a glimpse into what the 2015 World Cup team may look like. Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux started together for the first time and it was also the debut of the Morgan-Leroux-Christen Press front line. That looks likely to be the direction of the future for the US (in what would easily be the fastest set of forwards in the world) post Abby Wambach, which could be a while given Wambach’s continued scoring successes.
The dividends were clear as Morgan tallied two assists and Press and Leroux both scored. Leroux notched the opener in the 14th minute on a counter attack and Morgan assisted a beautiful upper 90 strike from Press in the 64th minute for the fourth US goal. Whitney Engen finished the scoring in the 84th minute.
Morgan’s other assist came in the 32nd minute when she sent a floating left-footed cross to the back post, where right back Ali Krieger half-volleyed the ball into the net from six yards out. Megan Rapinoe chipped in with a goal less than a minute into the second half when her free kick took an awkward deflection on its way into the goal.
After beating Iceland 3-0 in the Algarve Cup opener on Wednesday, the US has two wins in two games and goal difference of eight. The Americans play Sweden on Monday in their final group game with a trip to the first place match on the line.
Observations and analysis from Friday’s win:
— Ali Krieger was player of the match. The goal was a nice bonus for one of the team’s most experienced players on the field on Friday, but her play throughout the match and particularly in the first half stamped her return from a year away from the national team due to injury. She made her formal return last month, but the emphatic comeback took place in Friday’s tenacious effort on both sides of the ball.
— Alex Morgan is not in a slump…yet. Sure, she has gone 419 minutes without scoring (hat tip to Elias Sports Bureau for the figure), but she’s been playing the role of provider and did so again on Friday with two assists, giving her three this tournament. Morgan’s frustration is visible at times, notably on Friday when she was denied on three consecutive shots by Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yue in the 37th minute (when Morgan likely had another assist in the bag if she played a square ball to Rapinoe). But she spent much of last year rounding out her game into more than just a goal scorer (20-20 club, remember?) and if she is setting up goals in the interim of a goal-less streak, Sermanni will surely take that.
— Yael Averbuch is making a case to be the team’s dead ball specialist. Her 22nd minute free kick from about 30 yards out was a screaming effort which forced Zhang Yue into a tip-save. Averbuch also had a similar effort smack off the crossbar in the Feb. 9 game against Scotland. Carli Lloyd typically takes free kicks, but Averbuch could be a new option when she’s on the field.
— The defense has been a work in progress for some time and the continued on Friday with an experimental back line. Becky Sauerbrunn wore the captain’s armband, paired alongside Engen at center back, while Krieger lined up on the right and Kristie Mewis got a look at left back. Collectively, with the exception of Krieger on most occasions (who played pretty far forward), they were shaky at times, but sloppy field conditions and a completely new defensive unit will do that. Not a bad game out of the back, all things considered, and that includes goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who came up big on the few occasions she needed to.
— “Chasing Mia” had to wait a few days longer. Abby Wambach sat this match out in favor of the younger side Sermanni put out. Lindsey Horan came on for Leroux in the 73rd minute and had a quiet debut for the States in a game already won.
— Press’ goal was one of the best of the early year for the US. She now has four goals in four career caps, all of which have come over the last month.
-U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. China PR
Date: March 8, 2013
Competition: 2013 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium
Kickoff: 2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET
Weather: 63 degrees, rainy, cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 3 5
CHN 0 0 0
USA – Sydney Leroux (Alex Morgan* according to US Soccer) 14th minute
USA – Ali Krieger (Alex Morgan) 32
USA – Megan Rapinoe 46
USA – Christen Press (Alex Morgan) 64
USA – Whitney Engen (unassisted) 84
USA : 18-Nicole Barnhart; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 14-Whitney Engen, 8-Kristie Mewis; 17-Tobin Heath, 16-Yael Averbuch, 23-Christen Press (22-Lindsey Horan, 74), 15-Megan Rapinoe; 2-Sydney Leroux, 13-Alex Morgan (9-Heather O’Reilly, 67)
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Christie Rampone, 5-Kelley O’Hara, 6-Crystal Dunn, 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 19-Rachel Buehler; 20-Abby Wambach, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Tom Sermanni
CHN: 1-Zhang Yue (12-Wang Fei, 52); 4-Li Jiayue, 5-Wu Haiyan, 6-Zeng Ying, 11-Pu Wei (capt.), 16-Wang Chen, 19-Zhou Feifei, 21-Wang Lisi, 23-Ren Guixin (20-Wang Shuang 3rd,10-Ma Xiaoxu, 63), 25-Zhang Rui, 27-Li Ying
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Qin Qingfei, 14-Lu Yueyun, 15-Lei Jiahui, 18-Hang Peng
Head coach: Hao Wei
Stats Summary: USA / CHN
Shots: 24 / 3
Shots on Goal: 14 / 3
Saves: 3 / 9
Corner Kicks: 6 / 2
Fouls: 8 / 12
Offside: 2 / 3
CHN – Wang Lisi (caution) 39th minute
CHN – Wang Shuang (caution) 54
CHN – Li Ying (caution) 57
Referee: Jana Adamkova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 1: Lucia Ratajova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Adriana Secova (CZE)
Fourth Official: Esther Azzopardi (MLT)