USA defeats Australia in friendly
Alex Morgan scored one goal and set up the second as the U.S. women’s national soccer team rallied from a first-half deficit to beat Australia 2-1 Sunday in the second game on its post-Olympic tour.
Morgan scored the tying goal in the 55th minute and won the penalty kick fellow Southern Californian Shannon Boxx converted eight minutes later as the Americans, who last month won the gold medal at the London Games, shook off a rough first 45 minutes to improve to 2-0 on the 10-game tour.
Australia, which started six players 19 or younger, went ahead in the 34th minute when Lisa de Vanna beat U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo after outsprinting two defenders on a run from midfield.
It was the penultimate game for U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who will guide the Americans for the final time in Wednesday’s rematch with Australia in Commerce City, Colo. She is returning home to Sweden and has made no secret of her desire to coach her homeland’s national team.
”It’s exciting – that’s the word,” said Sundhage, who received an autographed guitar from her players after the game and played and sang a stanza of ”Jailhouse Rock” for the crowd of 19,851 at the Home Depot Center.
”If you look at the first half, eh, wasn’t happy about that, but then they turn it around. They come back. That’s typical for this team, you know, coming back and never, ever give up.”
Morgan, from nearby Diamond Bar, Calif., celebrated her 50th international appearance — and first hometown game with the national team — with her team-best 22nd goal of the year and 32nd all-time for the U.S. She took a pass from Heather O’Reilly, stepped into the box, cut inside defender Stephanie Catley and fired into the ceiling of the net from about 15 yards.
Boxx, who grew up just a few miles from the stadium, in Redondo Beach, Calif., beat 17-year-old goalkeeper Brianna Davey from the penalty spot after Morgan was spilled as she ran onto a Heath pass at the top of the box in the 61st minute. Davey tripped Morgan as defender Laura Aleway shoved from behind.
De Vanna took a feed from Catley several yards inside Australia territory, turned U.S. captain Christie Rampone and outran two Americans for 55 yards before chipping into the upper-right corner.
The U.S. was fortunate not to be down four goals by halftime. Sarah Walsh fired an open shot over the crossbar in the fourth minute, then rolled the ball off the right post in the 19th after a de Vanna long ball sent her in one-on-one with Solo.
Caitlin Foord nearly scored a spectacular goal seven minutes later, lofting the ball from the right flank high that cleared a leaping Solo, caromed high off the left post, hit a falling Solo in the back of the head and bounced away.
”They had a lot of good opportunities in the first half, and there were a couple we were lucky,” Morgan said. ”At the same time, I probably had five or six shots that just went wide. And finally in the second half I got it on frame and got it in.”
The Americans took command late in the first half, and the halftime insertion of Boxx and Heather O’Reilly in midfield enabled them to shut off Australia’s attack. The Matildas failed to get off a shot in the second half.
”Our tempo, our speed of play in the second half was much faster,” forward Abby Wambach said. ”And I think the Australian team fatigued a bit.”
Sundhage, who took charge of the U.S. in 2008 and has fashioned a 90-6-10 record, announced earlier this month that she was resigning after guiding the team to successive Olympic gold medals.
U.S. Soccer officials said in a statement that it was ”early in the process of the coaching search” and that a committee led by federation president Sunil Gulati and including former U.S. standouts Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton are ”making a list of candidates and will soon start having conversations with those candidates.”