It was another night of trying to break down a stubborn China defense, but the United States Women’s National Team did just enough to get a 2-1 win at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. It was a two-game sweep for the Yanks, with Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath sandwiching a goal from Li Ying.
The United States improved to 36-9-13 in 58 all-time meetings in the series. The Chinese equaled Canada for the most appearances against the U.S.
Jill Ellis trotted out this lineup, including Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan up top and wearing the captain’s armband, and Ashlyn Harris in net. Christen Press also started, earning her 100th cap.
Much like the first meeting last Thursday, the U.S. controlled play, spent long passages in the attacking third, but largely failed to produce a final product as China dug in and stayed organized. The opportunities were better than last week, but the U.S. wasn’t finishing.
Rapinoe’s curling cross was just out of the reach of Morgan in the third minute but it found Press at the corner of the six-yard box but her shot went over the bar. Two minutes later, it was Press finding Rapinoe in the area but her shot took a deflection off a defender and went just high.
In the 11th minute, Sam Mewis tried a left-footed shot from the top of the area, but she pulled her effort wide. The U.S. kept up the attack but saw a few crosses cut out. Morgan tried a longer range effort in the 22nd minute but the shot went just wide of the back post.
The U.S. appeared to take the lead in the 31st minute through Julie Ertz, but the offside flag came up. Rapinoe should have one-timed a cross on target from the center of the penalty area, but instead she laid off for Morgan. The striker was not expecting a pass and was caught a bit flat footed, but she still forced a great reaction save from Peng Shimeng. Ertz was there to stuff the rebound into the net but the AR ruled her offside.
Four minutes later, the U.S. finally finished. Mewis sprayed a ball out to the right for Press, who fizzed in a menacing cross to the back post. Rapinoe headed it perfectly back against the grain just inside the far post and the USWNT had a 1-0 lead.
A goal behind, China was forced to come out of its shell a bit and the visitors registered their first shot attempt in the 43rd minute. Li Ying fired from near the top of the penalty area. Harris dove to her right to make the save.
That was the last meaningful action of the opening period and the Yanks took their one-goal advantage to the break. The United States held a 9-2 advantage in shots (3-1 on target) and 62% of the possession.
The United States looked flat in the second half, with far too many poor touches, bad passes, and curious decisions, as China pushed the game after the break.
The warning bells rang early when China nearly beat the high U.S. back line for a 3-on-1 break in the 51st minute, but the pass went left to an offside player instead of right. Ren Guixin fired a shot after a prolonged China possession in the 56th but it was an easy save for Harris.
The U.S. got its first opportunity of the second half in the 57th minute, when Dunn sizzled a cross into the penalty area. Press tried to hit it first time but she didn’t hit it squarely and it squirted harmlessly off target.
Ellis started to substitute liberally after that chance and it served to throw the U.S. further out of sync. Dunn conceded a set piece that skipped in straight to Harris in the 60th, and then Wang Shuang fired wide a minute later.
The U.S. had half a penalty shout in the 62nd when Morgan chested down a cross from Press in the area and was knocked down but the referee ruled it was shoulder-to-shoulder contact and Morgan’s first touch was a bit too far out in front to give her much of an argument. A minute later she fired from the top of the box but her shot was deflected by one defender and blocked by a second.
China had some nervy moments in the 71st minute, when a U.S. set piece pinged off a few heads before Peng Shimeng tried to collect. The keeper spilled it but was first to get to the loose ball.
The Chinese equalized out of nowhere on a U.S. error in the 72nd minute. Both Becky Sauerbrunn and Tierna Davidson went up for a long ball over the top and avoided a clash of heads, but the ball skipped in behind them, giving China a 2-on-1. Li Tingting slid the cross over for Li Ying to finish past Harris to make it 1-1.
The Chinese almost immediately fashioned a chance to take the lead. Wang Shuang took a free kick from a dangerous spot in the 74th minute and curled one in on goal, but Harris got over quickly to reject the shot and quickly scrambled back to her feet as the U.S. defenders eventually earned a goal kick.
It was a huge save from Harris, as it turned out, because the U.S. regained the lead a minute later. Heath and Press tried to work a give-and-go at the top of the area and after a hint of handball on the Chinese defense, Heath got under her shot but it fortunately popped up and over Peng Shimeng and into the net for a 2-1 lead.
The U.S. seemed to find itself for the final quarter of an hour. the best scoring opportunities fell to Heath, who fired a blast just wide in the 77th minute from long range, and was nearly in alone in the 89th but tried to cut right to shoot and was dispossessed.
China had only one more decent look at goal and that came in the 82nd minute. Xiao Yuyi fired a weak shot to the near post that Harris saved comfortably.
After four minutes of injury time, the U.S. had its 2-1 win.
Thus concludes the international window. The U.S. will next be in action on July 26 against Japan to open the Tournament of Nations at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Morgan and Harris will head back to Orlando for the Pride’s match Saturday against Sky Blue.