The United States Women’s National Team finishes the 2016 calendar year without a single loss after beating Romania 5-0 at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Behind goals by Crystal Dunn, Christen Press, Morgan Brian, and Sam Mewis — and an own-goal — the USWNT closed the year with a record of 22-0-3.
One of those draws was followed by the penalty shootout loss at the Olympics to Sweden, but it was still an impressive year for the Yanks. It was also the team’s 18th clean sheet of the year.
It wasn’t as crisp as Thursday night’s 8-1 win, with the U.S. moving more deliberately in the final third, and the Romanian defense was much more organized and the visitors also parked the bus a bit more than in the first meeting. That served to limit the damage the U.S. attack could inflict and kept the score line somewhat respectable — certainly moreso than Thursday. In fact it was a 3-0 lead late but the Romanians were completely worn down and eventually conceded a couple more at the end.
Jill Ellis didn’t do Orlando fans any favors with her starting XI, leaving out all four Pride players. Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris at least made the 18, but Kristen Edmonds was left out again. Ellis essentially went with the same starting XI as she used on Thursday, with the exception of swapping goalkeepers, with Alyssa Naeher taking Harris’ spot.
The USWNT opened the match with all the possession and chances. Dunn sent a shot just wide off a rebound just six minutes in, firing the first warning shot at the Romanians. Moments later, Dunn sent in a cross that Lynn Williams got under and headed wide. Dunn continued to pressure the Romanian defense and goal, skipping through the defense and firing another shot on target in the ninth but goalkeeper Roxana Oprea was there for the save.
Williams fired from a tight angle in the 10th but Oprea palmed it wide. Dunn took a pass from Kealia Ohai in the 11th and fired over the bar from just above the penalty spot, as the onslaught continued. Two minutes later, Tobin Heath fired over from a quick set piece from the left side of goal.
After a short spell of Romanian possession, Ohai fired on goal in the 17th minute but it was half-shot, half-cross and right at Oprea.
The U.S. finally broke through against the bunkered Romania defense in the 20th minute, when Dunn sent in a cross on the break that was chested in for an own-goal by 17-year-old defender Teodora Meluta, off the hand of Oprea.
Williams missed a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 28th after Dunn forced a turnover in the offensive third. The ball deflected to the Western New York Flash striker but her shot was just wide.
The game went through a bit of a lull for a while before Dunn got into the box and had the ball knocked away in the 38th. It fell for Williams, whose shot was stopped by Oprea. A minute later, Ohai sent one across the goal mouth that appeared to be tipped off the crossbar by the Romanian keeper.
The Romanian defense was organized and tight, but eventually it broke down. Press sent Dunn in with a gorgeous pass and the Washington Spirit star buried her shot to the near side to make it 2-0, just seconds before the halftime whistle, in stoppage time.
The pass, run, and finish tho. pic.twitter.com/rvGdtOgQcz— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) November 14, 2016
The U.S. out-shot Romania 11-0 (5-0 on goal) in the first period, with 74% of the possession.
Morgan entered the match after halftime, as she did on Thursday, and Krieger joined her this time. Krieger took over for Casey Short at left back in the 3-4-3, while Morgan entered for Ohai.
The U.S. continued to get forward. Andi Sullivan fired on target four minutes after halftime but right at Oprea. Morgan nearly got onto a Dunn cross in the 51st but the ball was deflected just before it reached her. Sullivan sent another shot wide in the 53rd off a nice build-up by the U.S.
That pass, that run, that finish tho, part two. pic.twitter.com/FPsS6jS75E— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) November 14, 2016
Press made it 3-0 in the 55th off a beautiful cross from Heath. Press started the play with a pass out left for Heath, who returned the favor by sliding it across the box for the Chicago Red Stars forward, who had wisely continued her run and blasted a one-timer into the corner of the net.
Morgan went down in the 57th minute after a horrific tackle attempt by Ioana Bortan, who was booked for the challenge. The Pride captain was able to continue. Meluta was booked just moments later for another challenge on Morgan.
The Pride star nearly got her revenge in the 64th, flashing a shot just wide back across goal from the left side. It may have been a cross, but Press couldn’t quite get to it. She tried another shot from above the box a minute later but it skipped right to Oprea.
The chances kept coming. Sullivan felt she was fouled in the box in the 67th minute, and just seconds later Morgan sent in Heath, who fired off the right goal post. Long headed a Heath cross over the bar in the 70th. The USWNT simply peppered the Romanian goal with shot after shot.
Morgan hit the outside of the net in the 74th after she took a heavy touch toward the end line and had little room to shoot. She then missed the target in the 78th on a shot that was deflected off a defender. Sullivan got onto a Press cross in the 85th from a tough angle but Oprea made herself big and stopped it.
A minute after Sullivan’s attempt, Morgan got a head onto Horan’s headed cross but got under it.
Just when it looked like the U.S. simply wouldn’t score again, Press blasted an attempt in the 87th that resulted in a Romania handball. Morgan Brian finished from the spot to make it 4-0, sending Oprea the wrong way.
Morgan flashed another header just wide in the 90th as the Yanks refused to take their foot off the gas. Mewis capped the scoring in the 91st with a header off Kelley O’Hara’s cross.
The USWNT, which improved to 2-0-0 against Romania, will look forward to the She Believes Cup in early 2017. Morgan finished the year with 17 goals, tying Carli Lloyd for the most for the Americans in 2016.