Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan scored twice in the second half and the USWNT bossed the field in a 5-0 win over New Zealand in front of a good midweek crowd of 30,596 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Lynn Williams also scored, as the Yanks completed their two-game friendly sweep of the Football Ferns and improved to 14-1-1 in the all-time series against New Zealand.
It was a night when the strikers finished and the midfield completely bossed the visitors, spinning accurate, perfectly weighted passes from the defensive half and deep positions to spring dangerous attacks.
Jill Ellis made only a few changes to the lineup from Friday’s game as the U.S. opened in a 4-3-3. Alex Morgan was replaced in the starting lineup by Christen Press, flanked by Megan Rapinoe and Mallory Pugh. Rose Lavelle joined Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis in the midfield, replacing Lindsey Horan. Casey Short started at left back rather than Taylor Smith, alongside captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O’Hara, and in front of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Orlando Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris was on the bench with Morgan.
The United States nearly opened the scoring just seconds after kickoff. Short’s cross found Pugh but the Washington Spirit star opted to lay off for hometown girl Lavelle rather than shoot it herself. Lavelle fired wide with her attempt, however. At the five-minute mark, a poor clearance of a corner kick by New Zealand keeper Erin Nayler resulted in the ball finding its way out to O’Hara, who blasted one but just over the crossbar.
The U.S. pressure continued, with Press’ touch letting her down on a cross from Short to the top of the six-yard box. At the 10-minute mark, Nayler was forced into a desperation save to deny Ertz’ flick on.
Julie Ertz out here on a Tuesday night having some fun. Erin Nayler making some saves. nbd pic.twitter.com/AWPx0ml51F— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) September 20, 2017
A minute later she made another save on a Dahlkemper header that trickled in toward her off a corner kick. Moments later, the U.S. appeared to take the lead when Nayler spilled a cross from Rapinoe but Sam Mewis was judged offside on the play, saving the New Zealand keeper an embarrassing moment.
New Zealand’s first look at goal came in the 21st minute when the Football Ferns were able to send in a couple crosses into the U.S. area, but neither resulted in a shot on target. Hannah Wilkinson, who scored on Friday, sent a weak header off target that was easy for Naeher to come out and collect.
At 24’, Mewis sent a gorgeous slicing ball that found Rapinoe down the left but the Seattle Reign star took a touch that took her wide of goal and she had no help in the box, ultimately settling for earning a corner. Lavelle had a stab at the ball on the set piece but it took a deflection and sailed just over. Ertz missed wide on the ensuing corner. Pugh then stole a ball from Annalie Longo in the 25th minute and fired from long range but her shot skimmed the outside of the left post, narrowly missing.
Around the half-hour mark, New Zealand got a couple decent looks at goal and came close to breaking the scoreless deadlock. Rosie White had a close-range header hit Sauerbrunn’s back and the deflection fell for another shot but that too was blocked, as the U.S. got a bit sloppy.
The USWNT broke through in the 36th minute. Mewis sent another inch-perfect ball forward and onto the head of Horan, who had come on moments earlier for Lavelle — still recovering from injury. Nayler was off her line and Horan’s header essentially chipped the New Zealand keeper to make it 1-0. It was the fourth career international goal for Horan.
Press nearly doubled the lead two minutes later when she shook free in the box but she drove her shot right at Nayler for the easy save.
Just before the break, the U.S. struck again. A good buildup through the midfield ended up on the foot of Horan, who slotted in a perfect pass to the onrushing Pugh as she slipped in behind the defense. Pugh beat Nayler to the near post to double the lead and the USWNT went into the break with a 2-0 lead.
Morgan, Williams, and Taylor Smith came on after halftime for Press, Rapinoe, and Sauerbrunn. Short moved to Sauerbrunn’s center back spot with Smith taking right back and O’Hara moving left. It turned out to be a good wave of substitutions.
With her very first touch, just seconds after the restart, Morgan made it 3-0. Ertz sent a ball wide left for Pugh, who found Morgan breaking into the box. The Pride striker beat Nayler just inside the near post with power to triple the U.S. lead. It was the 76th international goal of Morgan’s career and snapped a tie for seventh all-time with Cindy Parlow.
It got worse for New Zealand. In the 55th, Williams blazed past Ali Riley and tried to cut a cross into the box but it went behind everyone. The U.S. continued the attack, however, and O’Hara sent in a ball from the left that Williams nodded home to make it 4-0, scoring her third international goal.
Pugh put on an individual skills medley after that, coming up with a steal, playing a sick ball around a defender to herself, and fizzing in a cross but it was cut out by the defense. Moments later, Pugh tried to curl a shot into the upper right corner from the top of the box but it stayed just over the bar.
Wilkinson fired high and wide in the 66th minute in one of New Zealand’s rare opportunities to shoot, just to remind everyone that there was a second team on the field.
Morgan made it a handful of goals for the U.S. at 69’ when she took a pass from Pugh on the left side of goal and smashed it off the bottom of the crossbar and in for international goal No. 77. Morgan now has four goals in her last three USWNT games and nine in her last nine NWSL games [/insert about thirty-seven fire emojis here].
She had a shot at a hat trick in the 75th minute as she nearly got in behind but she couldn’t bring down the elevated entry pass.
The U.S. had a few half chances but all the scoring was done and the Yanks were able to see it out and keep a clean sheet for Naeher.
The USWNT will be back in action Oct. 19 and 22 against Korea Republic in New Orleans and Cary, NC.