Alex Morgan continues to be in top form. The Orlando Pride striker scored a goal and assisted on another to lead the United States Women’s National Team to a 3-1 win over Canada in front of 17,960 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA, in the side’s final match of 2017.
The game played out similarly to last Thursday’s match-up in some respects, with the U.S. grabbing a 1-0 lead, only to see the Canadians equalize in the second half. However, this time the Yanks powered past Canada with Morgan breaking the deadlock and then assisting on Carli Lloyd’s insurance goal.
Jill Ellis started Alyssa Naeher again because she called four goalkeepers in to camp, so obviously only one of them saw all 180 minutes in the two friendlies. The back line was (L-R) Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Taylor Smith. Julie Ertz, Lindsay Horan, and Sam Mewis patrolled the midfield, with a forward line of Megan Rapinoe, Morgan, and Christen Press.
The game started much more brightly for the U.S. than Thursday’s match in Vancouver. The Yanks controlled the ball much of the first half and didn’t take a while to settle into the match the way they did last week.
Rather than struggling against Canada’s pressure, the U.S. did a good job of solving it and stringing passes together. Things still broke down in the offensive third more than they should have, but Canada is a top five team in the world for a reason and Rebecca Quinn did a nice job defensively to shield goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
It was Labbe making the first big save of the match on Morgan. The Pride striker broke down the left in the 10th minute and fired from a tough angle but the Canadian keeper was there to make the stop.
The Canadian defense deflected away the ensuing corner kick but it went out for a second straight set piece. The U.S. made the most of the second opportunity with Rapinoe crossing in to Ertz, who scored her 14th international goal — all on set pieces — with the near-post header. The USWNT led 1-0 after only 11 minutes.
Morgan got down the left flank minutes later and slid a cross into the box for Rapinoe in the 20th minute. The pass was a tad in front of the Seattle Reign star, who made a sliding effort and made contact but her shot went just wide. Rapinoe and Labbe collided on the shot and both stayed down for a few minutes but were able to continue.
In truth, the rest of the first half was pretty boring. The energy of the match’s opening minutes waned and the sides seemed content to probe tentatively forward without managing to threaten the other much.
That nearly changed in the 32nd minute, when Horan made a horrible turnover in her defensive third and put the ball right on the foot of Christine Sinclair, Canada’s most dangerous goal scorer. Naeher came off her line and Sinclair ended up sliding her shot just wide of the near post.
The USWNT ended the first half with a stoppage-time free kick from long range that Horan nodded wide and the Yanks took the 1-0 lead into the break.
Canada came out with a lot of energy to start the second period and created a chance almost immediately. Adriana Leon appeared to clip Dahlkemper but it wasn’t called and as a result Leon broke in on goal from the left all alone. Naeher stopped her bad-angle shot attempt. Canada got a free header from Quinn on the ensuing corner but it was blocked and the U.S. cleared.
The Canadians tied the game moments later. Sinclair sent a long ball forward and Nichelle Prince out-paced Sauerbrunn to reach the ball first. Dahlkemper took a bad angle trying to cover and it ended up leaving Prince with two teammates and only one defender. She slid the ball to Janine Beckie for the easy finish and the game was tied at 1-1 in the 50th minute.
The U.S. responded well to the Canada goal. Good pressure from Rapinoe forced a corner in the 52nd minute and the ball pinged around the box on the set piece before being cleared. In the 55th minute Rapinoe sent a cross in for Press but it was just behind the Red Stars’ striker. A minute later, Press sent in a pass that Rapinoe tried, but failed, to play. That kept Morgan onside and the Pride star beat Labbe to restore the U.S. lead.
Rapinoe blasted a long shot on goal in the 65th minute that Labbe spilled but she recovered before Mewis could pounce on the rebound. Two minutes later, Prince sent a dangerous cross into Naeher’s six-yard box but the defense was able to clear.
Both teams’ coaches started subbing liberally after that and the game was a bit less fluid. Neither team could do more than create a half-chance for much of the remainder of the match.
But the U.S. was able to pad its lead in the 80th after a corner kick. Second-half sub Casey Short sent a cross in for Rapinoe but it was headed behind for a corner. After Canada cleared the initial set piece cross, it came back out to the corner for Rapinoe, who crossed into the area. Morgan was moving away from goal and headed it back across the box where it fell perfectly for Lloyd to tap home for her 98th career goal for her country.
Rapinoe nearly put an exclamation point on the game in the 87th minute with a long-range blast that swerved on Labbe, who got a piece of it. The ball skipped along the goal line without crossing it and Horan arrived to try to poke it home but it was deflected just wide of the post.
Minutes later, the ref blew the full-time whistle and the U.S. improved to 48-3-7 in the all-time series. Morgan finished the year with a team-high seven goals and goals in six of the final seven matches of the year.
Neither the Pride’s Ashlyn Harris nor Chioma Ubogagu appeared in the two-game set against the Canadians.
That’s it for 2017. The USWNT will be back in action next year.