Sydney Leroux provided the U.S. women’s national team with the perfect start to its two-game series with France.
Leroux barged through two French defenders and poked home the only goal in the first half as the U.S. defeated Les Bleues 1-0 on a rainy night in Tampa, Fla. The persistent finish held up as the U.S. staved off France’s threat on the counter and survived a late spell of pressure to secure a victory.
The final whistle offered the ideal ending to a promising night for the home side. U.S. coach Jill Ellis watched her team cope with a start delayed more than 30 minutes due to lightning, function well on the ball in the first half and retain its shape after the interval. Alex Morgan also impressed after her second-half arrival to supply yet another positive note ahead of the final match in this series in East Hartford, Conn. on Thursday.
Article continues below ...
France dropped off at the outset and permitted the U.S. to established the tone and tenor in possession as this brief series opened. Ellis’ side rose to the challenge in the early stakes and strung together some decent sequences with a variety of service toward the front three.
The balance of the game inevitably provided France with a chance or two to break quickly down the right through the fleet Elodie Thomis. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo produced a fine save inside the first 10 minutes to ensure her side remained on level terms.
Solo’s intervention proved critical in the 21st minute as Leroux eventually turned the U.S. advantage in possession into the opener. Leroux – deployed as the center forward with Abby Wambach ruled out with a knee complaint – combined with Christen Press on the left side of the penalty area. The chance looked like it might fritter away after a French intervention, but Leroux rode through two challenges and slotted past Sarah Bouhaddi for the opener.
Eugenie Le Sommer attempted to produce a response before the interval as the French tried to counter. The Olympique Lyonnais forward curled onto the near post on the half-hour after racing behind the American line and then forced Solo to claw her header off the ground to protect the U.S. lead heading into halftime.
The returning Morgan emerged off the bench in the early stages of the second half to make her first appearance of the year. Morgan returned from an ankle complaint for Portland Thorns last weekend to usher her way back into the national side. She replaced the injured Tobin Heath and immediately took up a position in the center of the front three.
Morgan injected her usual spark and threatened from time to time, but both sides struggled to create clear chances after the interval. France eventually mounted a late bid to snatch an equalizer with sustained pressure in the final minutes. Second-half substitute Laëtitia Tonazzi carved out the best opportunity after the interval when she raced clear four minutes from time, but she tucked her effort wide of the far post. The late miss ensured the U.S. celebrated Ellis’ first match in permanent charge and Morgan’s return to the fold with a victory.