The USWNT’s match against Thailand at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus was all about Heather O’Reilly, and the long-time fixture in the United States lineup – wearing the captain’s armband – delivered in her 231st and final international game. “HAO” notched a goal and an assist before many fans had even found their seats as the Yanks romped to a 9-0 victory in their first game since the Rio Olympics.
Carli Lloyd was involved in seven of the goals with a hat trick and four assists, and Pride captain Alex Morgan scored a brace off the bench in the second half. How perfect it seems that the USWNT sent No. 9 into retirement by scoring nine times.
HAO’s got things started early. Skipping around a Thailand defender, O’Reilly launched a perfect back-post cross that found Lloyd’s head. Lloyd nodded back across goal and just over the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, putting the U.S. ahead, 1-0, less than a minute into the match. It was Lloyd’s 91st career goal and her 12th of 2016.
Just three minutes later, Christen Press scored her 35th international goal into an empty net off a Lloyd touch that was either a mishit shot or a sparkling pass.
HAO scored her 47th international goal a minute after Press’ goal off Lloyd’s second assist, giving O’Reilly a goal and an assist in the first five minutes of her last international game.
The United States attacked at will, creating chance after chance. In the 17th minute, O’Reilly missed a sitter off a cross from Press by not hitting it hard enough and allowing Thai defender Sunisa Srangthaisong to clear it off the line. In the 19th minute O’Reilly appeared to go for a cheeky Olimpico off a corner kick but goalkeeper Yada Sengyong palmed it down.
The attack continued. Samantha Mewis missed just wide with a header off an O’Reilly cross in the 26th minute. Press blasted a shot a half hour in that Sengyong fought off to keep it 3-0.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris got the start in the team’s first game since Hope Solo was suspended from the USWNT, but she was barely involved. She got her first touch of the game (I think) in the 34th minute on a back pass.
The USWNT had come close on a number of chances, but finally made it 4-0 in the 36th minute, as Lloyd sent in Tobin Heath, who took a couple quick touches and chipped one in from close range off the keeper’s hands. The ball crossed the line just a split second before HAO arrived to make sure it hit the back of the net. The goal gave Lloyd her third consecutive assist.
Lloyd was robbed of a second goal in the 39th from close range by Sengyong. Heath chiped the rebound back in for Press but it was cut out to O’Reilly, who missed wide from the top of the box as the onslaught continued.
Thailand finally got a shot attempt off in the 41st minute, but Harris just watched it sail well wide of her net and wasn’t called into action.
A minute later, O’Reilly buzzed a shot just over the crossbar with a left-footed effort from the right side in the relentless U.S. attack. Lloyd’s volley shot off a Julie Johnston cross sailed wide in the 43rd minute as the Yanks maintained about a shot-a-minute pace for part of the first half against the shell-shocked Thailand players. Heath had a backheel flick blocked by Thai captain Duangnapa Sritala. Heath then closed the first half by sending a rocket over the net in first-half stoppage time.
It was a relentless and overwhelming first 45 minutes and the USWNT could easily have scored eight or 10 goals.
Jill Ellis brought on five substitutes for the second half, including Morgan, along with Emily Sonnett, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan, and Meghan Klingenberg.
Little changed in the second period. Shortly after halftime Julie Johnston headed over off a beautifully struck free kick from O’Reilly.
Harris finally got to come off her line to catch a cross in the 55th minute but there was little danger to her goal.
In the 58th minute, Sengyong kept the game at 4-0 with two outstanding saves on Lloyd and Horan on back-to-back, point-blank chances, off a Rapinoe cross. However, Lloyd made it 5-0 in the 60th minute after O’Reilly’s cross hit off of Thailand midfielder Pikul Khueanpet and fell perfectly for No. 10 to bang it home. For Lloyd, it was the fifth consecutive goal which she either scored or set up.
Morgan got her first good look at net in the 63rd but missed the target on the half volley.
Crystal Dunn came on for Johnston in the 64th minute in Jill Ellis’ final substitution and immediately got involved, pouncing on a blocked Morgan shot and sending a blast over the net just seconds after coming on.
Harris finally registered a save in the 69th minute, making a diving stop on Taneekarn Dangda after a Klingenberg turnover in the defensive third. That seemed to annoy the U.S., which responded with a Dunn rocket off the underside of the crossbar moments later to make it 6-0.
But Thailand came right back in the 71st and nearly pulled one back as Klingenberg got beat on the break and when Harris couldn’t get onto a Kanjana Sungngoen cross that took a bounce with a lot of spin on it. A Thai attacker got a shot off and Kelley O’Hara hooked off the line although replay showed it may have crossed for a Thailand goal.
In the 72nd minute, O’Reilly was denied by the keeper off a corner cross from Rapinoe as her night of scoring chances continued. In the 74th it was Horan blasting high off a good string of passes from Morgan and Dunn. Two minutes later, Rapinoe fizzed a corner into the box for O’Reilly who one-timed it over the bar in what must have been her 10th shot attempt.
Morgan sent in Horan in the 77th minute, but the Thorns midfielder took it awkwardly and fell trying to get the shot off.
The U.S. made it seven goals in the 81st minute on a play started by Morgan. The Pride captain sent Rapinoe in to the end line. Rapinoe’s cross found Horan who headed it strongly at Sengyong. Lloyd pounced on the rebound, scoring her third from close range for the 7-0 lead. That goal gave Lloyd the USWNT’s 2016 scoring lead pushing her past Morgan with 14 on the year.
Lloyd became just the fifth player to score seven or more career hat tricks with the USWNT.
Just for good measure, Lloyd set up Morgan for the eighth U.S. goal moments later, sending in the Pride forward for a cool left-footed finish 1-v-1 against Sengyong.
In the 88th minute, HAO came off the pitch for the United States for the final time, handing the armband to Lloyd and departing to a huge ovation and hugs from her teammates. It was a special end to a special evening in a special 15-year career for O’Reilly, who came off without anyone to substitute on for her.
In appropriate fashion, Morgan made it 9-0 with her second of the match with a blast from the right side in stoppage time. Nine goals to send No. 9 into international retirement.
The final whistle blew -- mercifully for Thailand — moments later.
The United States women are back in action on Sunday at 7 p.m., taking on the Netherlands in Atlanta.