Thanks to a Carli Lloyd hat trick and Alex Morgan doing a little of everything, the United States Women's National Team kicked off 2016 with a 5-0 win over Ireland in San Diego, CA. Making her 100th appearance for her country, the Orlando Pride's Alex Morgan captained the Stars and Stripes and had an outstanding game with a goal and two assists.
The U.S. took the lead after just six minutes, thanks to Morgan, who slipped behind the back line off a throw-in and with all the attention on her, played the ball back to the top of the six-yard box, where Carli Lloyd was waiting to tap home into an empty goal.
In the 22nd minute the duo struck again. Morgan's strong header at the back post off a cross was blocked into the air by Ireland keeper Emma Byrne and Lloyd cleaned it up, heading home from point-blank range. But the goal came at a price, Lloyd collided with Irish defender Louise Quinn while in the air and was forced to leave the field.
Minutes later however, Lloyd was waived back onto the field and just moments after that had her hat trick. A terrible back pass by an Irish defender failed to reach Byrne before Lloyd could run onto it and the FIFA Player of the Year for 2015 slipped it past the Irish keeper for goal number three before the clock had hit 30 minutes. Lloyd is now the fifth American with six international hat tricks, according to ESPN, and four of the six have come within the past seven months.
The crowd of 23,309 at Qualcomm Stadium had even more to cheer about when Morgan added to her two assists with a goal of her own just before halftime. This time it was Lloyd who played the provider, her backward flick header hit the post and bounced perfectly to Morgan, who slid the rebound into a wide-open goal even though replays may have caught her in an offside position. Only Michelle Akers (90) and Abby Wambach (81) have more goals in their first 100 caps than Morgan's 57. Here's the goal:
Carli Lloyd's header redirects off the post and straight to Alex Morgan, who's there to pick up the scraps. WATCH: https://t.co/0W6RJS95n9— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 23, 2016
Morgan was also a part of what could be a significant part of U.S. soccer history in the 58th minute. Mallory Pugh, the 17-year-old phenom, made her first senior appearance when she came on for Morgan and definitely made it count. Pugh got on the end of a Christen Press cross in the 83rd minute and powered a header past Byrne to put an exclamation point on an already unforgettable day for the UCLA commit.
With both Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn missing the game with injuries, the duo of Whitney Engen and Emily Sonnett started at center back and played a solid game, protecting the clean sheet.
With this game in the books, coach Jill Ellis now has to select her squad for Olympic qualifying. The Yanks open qualifying Feb. 10 vs. Costa Rica in Frisco, TX, and Ellis will have to make some very tough decisions. Veterans like Heather O'Reilly and Sydney Leroux, and youngsters like Jaelene Hinkle, may be on the outside looking in thanks in part to the emergence of players such as Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was an unused substitute.