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Lavelle, Dunn shine in USWNT rout of Russia

Rose Lavelle waits for a throw-in during the second half against England. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)
Rose Lavelle waits for a throw-in during the second half against England. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

Rose Lavelle made her third straight start for the United States on Thursday night against Russia. (MEG LINEHAN/Equalizer Soccer)

The United States defeated Russia on Thursday evening by a score of 4-0 on a night when Rose Lavelle and Crystal Dunn stole the show with their play. Lavelle was creative and fearless in the attacking third as she beat defenders and set up chances, eventually notching two assists. Dunn, the United States’ most dangerous offensive threat, put two in the back of the net after tirelessly exhausting the Russian back line.

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Jill Ellis’ side came out in a 4-4-2 which had them back to their recognizable four-player back line with Casey Short and Becky Saurbrunn holding down the center and Meghan Klingenberg, back on the field with the USWNT for the first time since September, and Kelley O’Hara flanking on both sides. The United States employed a three-back defensive line throughout all three games during the She Believes Cup and faced stark criticism for that choice after finishing the tournament in fourth place out of four teams. Russia, who has yet to see victory against the United States in eight attempts, came out with a 4-4-2 formation as Elena Formina’s side looked to get its first ever win against the United States.

It didn’t take long for the USWNT to get forward. Only 23 seconds in, Carli Lloyd was able to spring Dunn forward on the right side. Dunn shook her defender to drive end line and hit Lloyd in the box, but her shot went wide. The U.S. put their first shot of the game on target in the third minute when Samantha Mewis floated one into the box, but Russia goalkeeper Alena Belyaeva was able to deal with it easily. Just a few minutes later, Lavelle forced the first big save of the match for Belyaeva after beating four defenders across the top of the box and launching one with her left foot that Belyaeva had to bat away.

The U.S. got on the scoreboard in the 10th minute when Lloyd slotted Dunn a through ball on the right side that she buried far post past Belyaeva. With the strike, Dunn scored her 19th international goal in 49 appearances. One minute later, Russia registered their first shot on goal from outside the 18 yard box, but Naeher was able to deal with it easily.

The United States took a 2-0 lead in the 18th minute when Long re-directed a Lavelle corner with her head to the near post for her fourth international goal.

Inside 28 minutes, the U.S. looked comfortable on the ball as they continued to create chances and capitalize on them early on. Dunn was continuously knocking on the door of the Russia defensive line, although the U.S. was called offside for the fourth time under the half-hour mark.

In the 29th minute, Long took a shot from the top of the box, but she put it just over the bar. The third U.S. corner of the match came in the 36th minute as Lavelle stepped up to take it, but it was cleared away.

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Time and time again Rose Lavelle, in her third straight start for the USWNT, continued to shine on the right side. She continuously beat defenders on the flank and against the goal line to dominate that part of the park for the U.S.. In the 37th minute, Lavelle nutmegged her defender with a back heel that set up Mallory Pugh for a run out wide who then slotted one on the ground to Long across the six yard box, but she pinged it off the post.

Three minutes later, Dunn was able to win the ball high up off a defender and then finish on the right side with a shot on the ground that was slotted past Belyaeva to give the United States a 3-0 lead before the half. Just before the halftime whistle, Lloyd turned her defender at the top of the box and released a shot that nailed right off the post.

The United States came into the second half with a three goal lead when Alex Morgan (for Lloyd) and Ali Krieger (for Klingenberg) subbed on. Krieger joined Saurbrunn in the center back role and pushed Short wide. The second half kicked off with a few early chances for the U.S. but nothing concrete to show for it. On the other side of the pitch, Sochneva slipped past O’Hara on the far side, but her cross went across the box without being in reach of any Russian forwards in the 55th minute.

In the 57th minute, the U.S. took its sixth corner of the match. Lavelle launched one in, but it was cleared away. One minute later, Crystal Dunn was called offside. This was the 8th offside call on the US, and the fourth for Dunn. In the 60th minute, Belyaeva was forced to come up with yet another big save on Alex Morgan right outside the six-yard box on a through ball from Dunn.

Five minutes later, Pugh was taken down in the box and a PK was awarded to the USWNT. Long stepped up to take but hit it over the bar.

In the 67th minute, Megan Oyster made her debut for the United States when she came on to replace O’Hara. Two minutes later, Long saw redemption for the missed PK when she finished her second of the night with her head in the 69th minute off a cross from Pugh that she redirected and buried past Belyaeva.

Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez entered the match for the United States in the 78th minute for Lavelle and Pugh respectively. Rodriguez returned to the pitch for the first time since the birth of her second son, Luke.

As the game was winding down, Belyaeva was forced to punch away a dangerous Rapinoe corner in the 85th minute. In the 91st, Press hit one wide after a great first touch to set up her attempt. The whistle blew after three minutes of stoppage time and the United States secured the 4-0 win over Russia in front of more than 15,000 fans.

Next up, the USWNT will face Russia again Sunday in Houston.

U.S Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Becky Saurbrunn, Kelley O’Hara (Megan Oyster 67’), Meghan Klingenberg (Ali Krieger 45’),Casey Short, Mallory Pugh (Amy Rodriguez 78’), Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle (Megan Rapinoe 78’), Allie Long, Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan 45’), Crystal Dunn (Christen Press 63’)

Russia Starting XI: Alena Belyaeva, Tatiana Sheikina (Ksenia Kovalenko 71’), Daria Makarenko, Anna Belomyttseva, Elvira Ziiastinova, Anna Cholovyaga, Elena Terekhova (Nadeshda Karpova 45’), Ekaterina Sochneva, Margarita Chernomyrdina, Elena Morozova (Elena Danilova 16’), Nadeshda Karpova


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