In their second match of the Algarve Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team put together a dominant performance to take control of their group and position themselves for a shot at the tournament championship match next Wednesday.
Hope Solo came through the match with a clean sheet, and made three saves to record her USWNT record 79th career shutout while Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez and Abby Wambach came through with second half goals to help Team USA beat Switzerland 3-0. The victory moves the U.S. Women to the top of Group B, pending their final match of group play against Iceland on Monday.
“We were patient. In the first half, Switzerland made it hard for us to play and they got numbers behind the ball, but I thought our patience and our tempo certainly picked up in the second half,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said after the match. “Our game changers came in and made a difference so I was really pleased all-around with the performance.”
The teams went scoreless through the first half and though Hope had several touches to reset the USWNT’s attack, she was tested on only a pair of occasions in the opening 45 minutes.
The first test came in the 24th minute she aggressively pursued a punt from just across midfield into the box by Switzerland’s captain Caroline Abbé. Hope tracked the high-arching kick and knocked it back out of the box. The loose ball was corralled by Swiss midfielder Vanessa Bernauer, who lofted a kick from about 25 yards out, on target toward the goal. But Hope calmly retreated and made an easy catch in front of her net to thwart Switzerland’s scoring attempt.
Later, after Switzerland earned just their second corner kick of the match in the 39th minute, Hope quickly foiled their try, as she was ready for the curling kick of Lara Dickenmann and punched it out of the zone, leading her team on the attack. However, Team USA couldn’t crack Swiss goaltender Stenia Michel either and the game went to halftime knotted at 0-0.
After the short reprieve, the USWNT again came out strong, just as they had on Wednesday after trailing at halftime of their 2-1 win over Norway. This time it was Alex Morgan who broke through for the U.S. after Wednesday’s hero Carli Lloyd drew a foul to setup a free kick. On that free kick, Lauren Holiday dropped a pass right into the middle of the box, just beyond the header attempt by Switzerland’s Rahel Kiwic. Waiting there was Morgan, unmarked and in perfect position to redirect the ball from mid-air into the back of the net with her right foot. That goal gave the WNT a 1-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Hope survived her toughest test of the afternoon and held tightly to the lead. The chance came in the 60th minute, as described in U.S. Soccer’s game recap:
“Switzerland attacked from the right side and crossed just above the box to Lara Dickenmann, whose sweeping right-footed shot was struck toward the left of the frame. Solo read the strike well and parried it away to keep Switzerland off of the score sheet.”
— GotSoccer (@GotSoccer) March 6, 2015
SAVE! Hope Solo with a monster stop. Dickenmann one-times it inside the box with a blast, and Solo does well to react and knock it away.
— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) March 6, 2015
— Coach James Galanis (@coachgalanis) March 6, 2015
Switzerland will tie? Noooo! Great save Hope Solo! #USWNT
— George O'Brien (@geoman52) March 6, 2015
Hope didn’t have to deal with another scoring chance for another 10 minutes, but when she did, she swallowed up a soft shot by Bernauer in the 72nd minute with ease. On the ensuing attack, Team USA tallied an insurance goal. Amy Rodriguez followed up an attempt by Christen Press that was saved by Michel but left a loose ball in front of the open net. Rodriguez dribbled around a blocking attempt and, after a spin, chipped a shot that found the back of the net inside the left post.
Abby Wambach put the finishing touches on the victory with a goal fired in from 18 yards out in the 81st minute, shortly after she was substituted into the game, to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead. Switzerland had once chance to get on the scoreboard in the 90th minute when Rachel Rinast launched a cross from the left corner through the goal box. Hope made a valiant attempt to stop it, but the ball sailed over her head. However, the defenders in front of her, particularly Meghan Klingenberg, were in position to mark their Swiss opponents and ensure there would be no attempt on goal. The U.S. defense held strong from there and closed out the shutout win. Afterward, coach Ellis commented on how pleased she was with the play of her back line.
“I thought the back line was solid overall with solving the players in front of them, and the runners behind them. They did a good job. To keep a clean sheet was fantastic. Hope‘s save was phenomenal. I was most pleased with the whole effort of the backline and the goalkeeper.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team closes out group play at the Algarve Cup on Monday when they take on Iceland at Municipal Stadium in Lagos, Portugal.
A victory would automatically advance the U.S. to the Algarve Cup final as winner of Group B.
The game will not be broadcast on television, but the USWNT Twitter account will live tweet the action.