Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan powered in a header in the second half to lift the United States Women’s National Team to a 1-0 win over China in front of 13,230 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT. Megan Rapinoe’s set piece delivery found Morgan, who did what she does best, finishing her chance as the USWNT began its pair of friendlies against China with a victory.
It was a good test ahead of next month’s Tournament of Nations, as China stayed organized, disciplined, and compact and forced the U.S. to be near perfect to generate quality scoring chances. The U.S. dominated possession and shots, as you’d expect, but very few of those opportunities carried any genuine menace. In the end, though, the USWNT improved to 35-9-13 against China in 57 matches.
Jill Ellis started the match with this lineup:
The first half was mostly played between the two penalty areas, with China staying organized and behind the ball, forcing the U.S. to work the ball mistake-free into scoring areas — something the Yanks struggled with. Morgan was a bit isolated up top with Savannah McCaskill struggling to make inroads on the right and Rapinoe staying out wide on the left.
The U.S. didn’t get many clear-cut looks at the net, firing through traffic or failing to get onto balls into the box. China looked for opportunities on the counter and got the first shot on target in the ninth minute through Wang Shanshan, who fired from the left but didn’t trouble Alyssa Naeher.
Morgan stole the ball and released Crystal Dunn up the left in the 20th minute but the Courage star’s cross into the area for Rapinoe was too close to goalkeeper Peng Shimeng, who smothered it.
Ren Guixin fired from distance in the 22nd minute but Naeher handled it comfortably. Four minutes later, Lindsey Horan saw her shot from a good area blocked behind for a corner. Wang Shuang sent a shot wide in the 29th as the teams battled back and forth.
Morgan flicked Dunn’s cross wide of the near post in the 30th minute in one of the better buildups of the half for the U.S. Three minutes later, Horan had another shot blocked out for a corner.
That set piece led to a China counter attack and the best opportunity of the half for either team. Li Ying got in behind the defense just onside and tried to curl in a right-footed effort but the shot was too close to Naeher and the Chinese attacker really should have done better.
At the other end, Dunn fizzed a cross that was just inches too far in front of Morgan in the 35th. All it needed was a touch but Morgan couldn’t stretch out far enough for it. Morgan took a corner cross from Rapinoe in the 45th minute but fired wide of goal in the last chance of the half, as the teams went to the break without a goal between them.
The second half began much like the first, with the United States controlling play and looking for a way through the China defense. A couple of overcooked passes kept that from happening in the early minutes of the second period.
The U.S. finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute. After Dunn drew a free kick in a good position, Rapinoe fizzed her set piece delivery into the area and Morgan drilled it in with her head to make it 1-0. It was Morgan’s 13th goal in her last 14 international games.
The goal gave the USWNT a boost and for a few minutes the Yanks were all over the Chinese. Rapinoe had a point-blank opportunity in the 59th minute but she fired over the net. The chance came off a fantastic move from halftime sub Sofia Huerta, who came in to play right back, moving Dunn up the pitch. Huerta torched her defender with a nutmeg move before sending the cross that deflected to Rapinoe.
Havin' a bit of fun on a Thursday night. pic.twitter.com/HDHPI7VpTk— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 8, 2018
Two minutes after that, Morgan had the ball with her back to goal and turned, popping up a high cross to the back post where Dunn sent it just wide of the post on another golden opportunity.
After that, Ellis sent out a string of substitutes, which took some of the flow out of the match. The United States continued to hold most of the possession, even with China trying to get more players forward to find an equalizer.
China’s best chance to level the score came in the 87th minute, when Huerta lost her mark and a cross from her side just missed the onrushing Li Tingting, who was crashing the net.
In the waning seconds, Carli Lloyd thumped a header right at Peng and the whistle ended things at 1-0.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris did not dress for the match, after picking up a hip injury in training earlier this week.
The U.S. and China will meet again next Tuesday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).