Even when the United States Women’s National Team isn’t sharp, it’s usually good enough. That was the case tonight as the USWNT hit the woodwork four times but still beat South Korea 2-0 in front of 30,071 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. Allie Long and Mallory Pugh scored the goals and Megan Rapinoe provided both assists.
Jill Ellis became the all-time winningest USWNT coach by recording her 106th win with one match left on the World Cup Victory Tour.
The game started off as a bit of a dull affair but then it started to open up a bit around 12 minutes in. The first good scoring opportunity for either side came off a set piece for the U.S. in the 15th minute. Abby Dahlkemper sent it in and it fell to Julie Ertz off a defender, but the shot rang off the left post and the follow-up effort was a weak dribbler that Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi fell on.
The next 20 minutes were unspeakably dull, truth be told. Most of it was played between the penalty areas with little of consequence taking place. South Korea did well to hold its shape and the Americans seemed disinterested in putting forth much extra effort in what has been a long year for all of the team’s players.
Pugh had the next good opportunity in the 37th minute. She took a pass from Rose Lavelle and cut in from the right, firing from a tight angle. Jung-mi got her palms to the rocket and fought it off the crossbar as the game remained tied.
The USWNT finally broke through in first-half stoppage time. Megan Rapinoe served in a set piece cross that fell for Long at the back post and she sent a left-footed shot through Jung-mi and into the net to make it 1-0.
Blame it on the Reign. pic.twitter.com/HqsmjT8WF0— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) October 4, 2019
Tierna Davidson was among the halftime subs, coming on to play left back. She conceded a free kick to the right of the penalty area less than a minute after the restart but the set piece delivery was sent in right to Harris for the easy save.
The rest of the game was mostly a case of seeing how close Press could come to scoring without actually scoring. It turns out she can get pretty close.
Her first opportunity came in the 63rd minute when she got in behind the defense but a heavy touch sent the ball to the goalkeeper. Five minutes later, Press got in behind with the ball but this time Jung-mi stuck out a right foot and saved the shot.
In the 70th minute, Press went through a sequence that might make a lesser player give up the game. Again she got in behind the defense and she touched the ball past Jung-mi, settled the ball and fired squarely off the near post instead of into the empty net. The ball came right back to her and she shot again. This time it was cleared off the line at the last second by a defender. She got a third crack but had the effort blocked.
We love a goal-line clearance. pic.twitter.com/0PAq9eEbLy— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) October 4, 2019
Just for good measure, Press fired a shot right at the goalkeeper from the top of the area in the 74th.
Pugh picked up her U.S. teammate off a corner kick in the 76th minute. Rapinoe sent in a cross and no one was within five yards of Pugh, who simply nodded the ball home to make it 2-0.
The U.S. wasted a couple more late chances. Lloyd headed a ball down from about a yard out and hit it so hard that it bounced off the turf and over the bar from point-blank range in the 83rd minute. Two minutes later, second half substitute Jess McDonald fired right at Jung-mi after being played in by a great ball from Press.
The U.S. held on through four minutes of stoppage time and got the win. Ellis’ team hasn’t conceded a goal since the World Cup semifinal against England. Harris picked up the clean sheet.
The same two teams will go at it again on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET at Soldier Field in Chicago.