Morgan leads USA to convincing Algarve Cup win over Switzerland
VILA REAL DE SANTO ANTONIO, Portugal —
It was a good night at the Algarve Cup for the United States women’s national team, who scored their second straight victory of the tournament by beating Switzerland 3-0.
The United States is now on top of the leader board in Group B and look forward to their third and final group game on Monday against Iceland, which should allow coach Jill Ellis’ squad further fine tuning in this World Cup tune-up.
The victories over Norway and Switzerland also draw the U.S. women closer to a potential Algarve Cup final against France, which has also won both of its first two matches.
Ellis was all but beaming at the chance at a rematch against a superb French team that soundly defeated the U.S. in February.
"This is what we were hoping for, to get the final and have a chance to play against one of the best teams for the (Algarve Cup) championship,” said Ellis.
The U.S. is feeling a lot better now than it was just few weeks ago. After the Swiss used five defenders in the back line, the U.S. finally broke the game open in the second half.
Alex Morgan scored her 51st career goal to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute. It was her second for the year. Amy Rodriguez later gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead in the 71st minute, chipping in a shot from in front of the goal after a shot by Christen Press.
Abby Wambach, who came in late, added the trifecta in the 81st minute when she beat her defender and was able to catch Swiss goalkeeper Stenia Michel for a looping dunk into the back of the net. It was the 34-year-old veteran’s 178th career goal — and proof that Wambach may be as valuable coming off the bench for the U.S. during the astroturf-laden World Cup as she has been as a starter during her historic career.
In addition to the win, the better news may be that the United States may be drawing closer to a World Cup-worthy starting lineup, at least up top and on defense.
Press got the start up top with Morgan in place of Wambach. Their speed gave the United States nice range and flexibility on the attack. Meanwhile, the back four that started have the makings of an energetic and tenacious defense.
Ali Krieger was in at right back with Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston at the center duo. And what could portend as a verdict on left back, the peppy Meghan Klingenberg replaced Lori Chalupny with the start.
There was also good news at midfield, where Carli Lloyd continued to show that she is the heart and soul of the U.S. squad, and Megan Rapinoe got her first start of the year.
"Obviously, I want to play all the time but I’ve got to get back to match fitness,” Rapinoe said earlier this week.
Rapinoe tried hard to make her presence known on Friday night, which was her 98th career cap. Rapinoe got off five shots in the first half, no doubt looking to collect her 30th goal, but it wasn’t to be. Rapinoe was subbed for by Rodriguez at the start the second half.
This was the second time the U.S. played Switzerland. The U.S. defeated the first-time World Cup qualifiers 4-1 last August in a match in North Carolina.
The night also saw the return of midfielder Shannon Boxx, who made her first appearance for the U.S. since April 5, 2013.