US Women Overwhelm Ireland In Friendly
Kicking off their final series of friendlies before the World Cup in June, the United States Women's National Team thoroughly out-classed and out-played the Republic of Ireland en route to a 3-0 victory. Playing for the first time in sold out Avaya Stadium in sunny San Jose, the idyllic conditions were made just a bit sweeter when Fox Sports flew out the team's mothers for the Mother's Day exhibition, appearing with their daughters as they were introduced before kickoff.
From the second the whistle blew, the Stars and Stripes grabbed hold of possession and took charge of the match. Barely two minutes into the proceedings, Wambach laid off a ball forMeghan Klingenberg, who crossed it right on the feet of Amy Rodriguez whose volley clipped the cross bar on the way over. Rodriguez and Carli Lloyd repeatedly played Christen Press into space down the right flank, allowing Press to dribble right at the defense and on more than one occasion, unleashing a testing effort on goal.
While the Americans were able to gallop into space out wide, and put in balls over the top to target forward Abby Wambach, the Irish proved resilient in the middle of the park, preventing the US midfield linking up with their forwards. The visitors managed one moment of brief danger in the 19th minute when ordinarily elite aerial defender Julie Johnston failed to clear a looping cross, but the ball skirted away to safety on the flank. Otherwise, center backs Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn stopped every Irish attack in its tracks, with US keeper Hope Solo only touching the ball once all half, on a back pass.
The Yanks seemed to manufacture their clearest chances from dead ball situations, something Head Coach Jill Ellis emphasized to the media yesterday. Johnston threw herself at several near-post corners, barely failing to put them on frame, and Wambach remained a constant presence in the air. One such situation fell to the feet of Megan Rapinoe at the far post, with the volley only being denied by a remarkable, stretching kick save from Irish keeper Niamh Reid-Burke.
Seconds later, the US pressure finally broke through, as Rodriguez struck an inswinging corner on frame, only to be saved by the face of Meabh De Burca. De Burca went down under the force of the impact, and the Irish players furiously appealed for the referee to stop play for the potential head injury, but Press squared the ball back to Wambach who cooly slotted it home for the opening goal.
Inspired with a fresh energy, the US looked more slick in possession, playing a series of triangular 1-2s to Carli Lloyd on the touch line, when Lloyd cut back and clipped it to Wambach on the far post, who easily dunked the header for her second goal in three minutes and the 2-0 lead.
After the break, with control of the game well in hand, Ellis subbed Rodriguez, Ali Krieger, and Megan Rapinoe off for Sydney Leroux, Lori Chalupny, and Morgan Brian, respectively. The midfield, which had previously set up in a fairly traditional 4-4-2, looked more fluid and dangerous with the ball on the ground, with Press switching over to the left flank and all players interchanging more frequently. From that position, she began to dominate the game more and more, dribbling markers at will, riding challenges, and in the 52nd minute, dummying the keeper and going for goal, only to be denied by a goalline clearance. Seconds later, she got another chance from 18 yards dead-on, only to be denied by a fine deflection that came off the crossbar.
In the 54th, Santa Clara University graduate Johnston was finally rewarded for her efforts on set-pieces by sticking her foot out on the near post and stabbing home off a corner, giving the US an insurmountable 3-0 lead. The fullbacks Lori Chalupny and Meghan Klinghenberg continued to look lively, overlapping and finding acres of space, but the US had clearly pulled its foot off the gas by that point. Holiday, Klingenberg, and Lloyd eventually made way for late cameos from Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Box, and Kelley O'Hara.
One scary moment arose in the 63rd minute as Wambach attempted to win an over the top ball and instead took a forearm straight to the face, bloodying her nose in the process. After some medical attention and cleaning herself up with a towel, she was back on the pitch just four minutes later, to a roar from the cowd. Julie Ann Russell managed one of the first intrepid moments for the Irish going forward, dribbling her mark but without any support to work with, giving it away eventually to an onrushing Sauerbrunn. Local girl Fiona O'Sullivan was subbed off to a roar in the 73rd minute. One last highlight for the visitors was Megan Campbell, who plays soccer stateside for Florida State University, putting two incredibly long throws into the box from the sidelines, probably getting closer than any of her teammates to troubling Solo in goal.
The Americans, for their part, managed a few more decent piecse of service from wide areas, with Morgan Brain failing to finish off an O'Reilly cross and Wambach nearly tallying her third off of a set piece. Most disappointed of all, perhaps, was Christen Press, who looked livelier than anyone else on the pitch and had a few more chances go barely astray.
The US plays their second of three tune-up matches in Carson, CA on May 17th against Mexico, and begin the World Cup against Australia on June 6th in Winnipeg.