Sam Mewis scored her first career international hat trick and her sister added a goal as the United States Women’s National Team opened its 2021 schedule with a 4-0 win over a young Colombian side at Exploria Stadium. Carli Lloyd went the full 90 in her first match since last year’s SheBelieves Cup and chipped in a pair of assists.
While it wasn’t the sharpest performance ever for the USWNT, the Yanks’ relentless high pressure and physicality wore down the visitors, who got a good performance from their goalkeeper to maintain a respectable score line.
The match capped 313 days without a game on home soil for the USWNT — the longest such drought in history. The U.S. improved to 6-0-1 in the all-time series against Colombia and 3-0-0 at Exploria Stadium. U.S. Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski improved to 12-0-0 to start his tenure with the USWNT.
“They deserve a lot of credit,” Andonovski said of the Colombians after the match. “Their ability to solve problems under pressure in individual battles was amazing. I wouldn’t say this surprised us because with everything that we scouted, we expected it. But I would say they did very good. Their ability to break pressure with individual creativity, and with individual skills, was very good. And they created some problems in the middle of the field that will be a good learning opportunity for us before the next game.”
Neither of the Orlando Pride’s two players on the USWNT — goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger — dressed for Andonovski’s side. The United States went with nearly a full first-team lineup, with Alyssa Naeher in goal behind a back line of Crystal Dunn, new captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O’Hara. The midfield in the 4-3-3 formation consisted of Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, and Sam Mewis. Megan Rapinoe returned to the forward line on the left, alongside Carli Lloyd and Lynn Williams.
The USWNT needed only four minutes to get on the board and it did so with a great passing sequence that led to an easy finish for Mewis. Dahlkemper started the sequence in her defensive half with a diagonal ball to Horan, who quickly turned and played a perfect through ball for Rapinoe on the left. Rapinoe crossed to Mewis at the top center of the area and she slotted home to make it 1-0.
The next good opportunity came in the 10th minute when Horan was left unmarked on a set piece but she sent her header right at Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda. Dunn fizzed a shot just over the bar in the 14th minute as the U.S. press kept the Colombians hemmed in their own end. Two huge saves by Sepulveda shortly thereafter kept it a 1-0 game. First she made a diving stop to deny Williams in the 14th minute and then she stopped a Lloyd header from in close in the 15th.
After a few more half chances, the U.S. finally doubled the lead in the 33rd minute. Mewis got her second of the night after Lloyd headed a Horan cross back across the box. The headed cross found its way to Mewis, who nodded home from point-blank range to make it 2-0.
That was it for the first-half scoring. Sepulveda was in good position to get to some of the USWNT’s poor finishing attempts but she also made some solid stops to keep her team in the match for the first 45 minutes.
The much-anticipated USWNT debut of Catarina Macario took place at halftime, as the Stanford star subbed on for Rapinoe.
The U.S. wasted no time getting another scoring chance as Horan was fouled in the area just 11 seconds after the restart. That set up Mewis’ hat trick goal from the spot in the 47th minute. The midfielder sent Sepulveda the wrong way and tucked her shot inside the left post, extending the USWNT lead to 3-0.
“By some stroke of luck I happened to be on the penalty kick list tonight and we just happened to get one when it was my turn,” Sam said. “So, I really do look back on the goals and I know that they were all team goals. The first one was a great buildup and was a perfect pass from Pinoe. The second one was basically already in, Carli passed it right to me with her head. And then the third one is actually something we work on all the time. That kickoff play that gets flicked on and then Lindsey set herself up and drew the foul so I mean I can’t take all the credit at all I think they really truly were all such good team goals and I’m just proud that I could be a part of that.”
“I thought it was a great performance (by Sam Mewis) and one thing about Sam is she did what she did, obviously played very good and scored goals, but I don’t think that’s her best,” Andonovski said. “I really believe that Sam has still a lot to grow, which is exciting.”
The U.S. lost some of its sharpness in the second period, particularly after making a few substitutions. But the Yanks rarely were troubled. Colombia got no shot attempts off although the visitors did produce a couple of second-half corners.
It seemed to be just a matter of the final score as the U.S. continued to turn Colombia over and attack both down the wings and in the middle, but some sloppy passes and poor touches prevented the USWNT from truly punishing the visitors on this night.
The final goal came, appropriately enough, from another Mewis. Kristie subbed on in the 64th minute along with Rose Lavelle, while her sister departed with Horan, who had sent a couple shots just wide after drawing the early second-half penalty.
Kristie Mewis sent her first shot off target in the 68th minute. Two minutes later, Macario sent a shot toward goal that took a slight deflection and went just wide of goal, drawing an audible chorus of “oohs” from the limited crowd. Ertz smashed a header wide on Macario’s delivery of the ensuing corner kick. Lloyd headed one just over the bar and onto the roof of the net in the 83rd minute as the U.S. continued to get looks at goal.
The final goal came in the 86th minute. Macario sent Lloyd got down the left flank and the forward sidestepped a defender before sending in a cross to the near post. Kristie Mewis volleyed it home to make it 4-0, completing the all-Mewis scoring barrage.
“I’m just so proud of Kristie. It’s just so cool to see her succeed here and have her here,” Sam said. “I feel so lucky that we both get to be here and it’s just been so much fun.”
That was it for the scoring and minutes later the USWNT had its first win of 2021. The Yanks out-shot Colombia 22-0 (11-0 on target), and led in possession (64%-36%), passing accuracy (80%-62%), and corners (5-2).
While the United States at full power should have easily beaten this young Colombia side, first games can be a bit rusty and there was plenty of evidence of that. Horan and Lavelle in particular will improve in form and the shots at the goalkeeper will be more clinical as the team spends more time on the pitch.
The same two teams will meet again on Friday at 7 p.m. at Exploria Stadium. The match will be broadcast on ESPN2.