The United States women’s national followed up Saturday’s 8-0 win over Mexico with a 4-0 victory over those same opponents in their final tune-up game before next month’s 2015 Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament here on Thursday. Amy Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan all scored.
While the game wasn’t terribly competitive or attractive, it did provide the Americans with a useful exercise in breaking down a defensive-minded side. Whereas Mexico had played a very high back line in Sandy, Utah in their resounding loss five days earlier, they focused on the prevention of goals this time around.
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The Americans know full well that reaching the World Cup in October and any subsequent success at the big tournament in Canada next summer will depend on their ability to break down teams. Especially ones seeking little more than to hang in and control the damage on the off-chance that they might steal an upset. Mexico turned up like just such a team, in a game played on an unseasonably chilly night in front of just 5,680.
By the end of a fairly bland first half, the Americans were already ahead 3-0 up. It took just nine minutes for Mexico to crumble, after they had already given away several chances. They turned the ball over in their own third, playing it right into the feet of Rodriguez. She scurried off with it and coolly beat Cecilia Santiago for the go-ahead goal.
Mexico showed no ambition whatsoever, bunkering deep and centrally into their own half, seemingly eager to avoid the sort of distressing loss they suffered when they played the USA the last time around. So the Americans tapped the ball around vast swaths of Mexican territory without interference. It lead to endless possession with little to show for it, as prying open that 11-woman defense proved tricky.
At length, in the 37th minute, Monica Alvarado headed a cross away in her own box but did so right into the feet of Rapinoe. She didn’t hesitate to volley the ball at goal. It took a small deflection on its way and went in.
The second half was, unfortunately, even less eventful. Hometown hero Abby Wambach ripped a shot just high. USA goalkeeper Hope Solo played a ball right into Veronica Perez’s feet from outside of her own box but breathed a sigh of relief when defender Becky Sauerbrunn blocked Perez’s shot at a wide-open goal with a lunging tackle. Morgan smashed a shot just wide on another bad Mexican turnover in their own box.
Then, in the 79th minute, as the Mexicans started to get overrun, the USA finally forged another major chance. Heather O’Reilly whipped in a well-placed cross and her fellow substitute Morgan rose to nod the ball behind Santiago. Christen Press missed several shots late on, bookending the scoring at four.
If the final score wasn’t quite so one-sided as last time, strides were made from Saturday’s game. The high possession head coach Jill Ellis has insisted on was markedly improved. The wing play that is another priority of hers has yet to come fully out of the woodwork though.
Still, the Americans will take confidence from this momentum-building series. Because the next time they play a game, against Trinidad and Tobago in Kansas City on Oct. 15, there will be places at the Women’s World Cup on the line.