On Thursday night the United States women’s national team defeated South Korea, 3-1, in the first of two international friendlies. Julie Ertz opened up the USWNT’s scoring account for the night, with Alex Morgan scoring the game winner late in the first half. Megan Rapinoe converted a penalty kick to close out the U.S’s scoring on the night, while Han Chae-rin scored for South Korea to prevent the shutout.
“I think for the forwards, as long as we’re scoring we’re doing our jobs,” Rapinoe said in a televised postgame interview. “There’s always the same expectation on this team. You’re hungry, humble, you’re looking to get after it, but I think this group really wants to learn and is really ready for that next challenge.”
Although Rapinoe was commenting on the depth the USWNT has up top, it was defender-turned-midfielder Julie Ertz who scored the opening goal of the night, once again proving how dangerous she is on set pieces. Halfway into the first half, Rapinoe sent a ball in from the near corner, and Ertz flung her body to the ground to get her head on the end of Rapinoe’s service and flick it towards goal. Her prewrap-snapping header nutmegged South Korean goalkeeper Chang Gaae to put the U.S. on the board first.
Nutmeg on a header. pic.twitter.com/2kA3Kqgr7T
— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) October 20, 2017
Alex Morgan was the next to strike for the U.S. with a goal that was as much tenacity on the parts of her and Kelley O’Hara, who recorded the assist, as anything else. From her spot at right back, O’Hara pushed into the attack and made a run for Mallory Pugh before managing to get off a cross before the ball rolled over the endline. Morgan, who had slipped just inside the six, used her first touch to control O’Hara’s ball in before spinning toward goal and using her second touch to blast a left-footed shot past the keeper to give the USWNT what should have been a fairly comfortable 2-0 lead shortly before the half.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 20, 2017
USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, in her 19th start in 21 appearances, was unable to add another shutout to her stat sheet, giving up a goal deep in first half stoppage time. Han Chae-rin, in her debut with the senior national team, put South Korea on the board after using her first touch and a little maneuvering to evade a flock of red jerseys and find space before blasting a rocket from distance that sailed out of Naeher’s reach and into the far upper 90.
? Okay! We see you, Han Chaerin!
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 20, 2017
Rapinoe scored the third and final U.S. goal early in the second half via penalty kick after a challenge sent her sprawling to the turf. Although the ensuing penalty was delayed a couple of minutes while an injured South Korean player was stretchered off the field, Rapinoe easily converted the penalty, putting the ball just off center as Chang dove towards the near post.
The USWNT win marked the returns of Carli Lloyd and Andi Sullivan, both of whom have missed multiple national team matches because of injury. Lloyd, who suffered an ankle sprain during the Houston Dash’s August 13 match that sidelined her for the rest of the NWSL season and the USWNT’s friendlies against New Zealand, entered the game in the 77th minute in place of Sam Mewis. Sullivan, who started and played the opening half for the U.S., was called into camp ahead of these friendlies for the first time since tearing her ACL in Stanford’s 1-0 overtime upset to Santa Clara in the 2016 NCAA tournament.
On the other side of injury news, Mallory Pugh had to prematurely exit Thursday night’s match with what initially appears to be a hamstring injury. In a moment eerily reminiscent of Rose Lavelle’s hamstring strain this summer, Pugh pulled up lame and grabbed the back of her thigh while making a run before eventually lying down on the turf in obvious pain. She was attended to on the field before attempting to walk off under assistance, but she eventually had to be carried off by USWNT training staff. According to The Equalizer’s Kieran Theivam, who was on the ground in New Orleans for the match, head coach Jill Ellis said Pugh will undergo an MRI tomorrow to diagnose the extent of her injury.
Jill Ellis says Mal Pugh will have an MRI tomorrow and says injury looks like a hamstring.
— Kieran Theivam (@KiersTheivam) October 20, 2017
The USWNT and South Korea will once again take the field on Sunday, October 22 to play the second installment at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. That match is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN.