After a wild outing on Thursday, Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team bounced back in a major way on Sunday to finish off a set of games with rival Japan in victorious fashion.
In a match that was called in the 76th minute due to inclement weather, No. 1 registered two saves and notched her 99th career clean sheet. With that effort, and behind goals from Julie Johnston and Alex Morgan, the USWNT notched a 2-0 win over Japan in front of 23,535 spectators at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, a record-setting crowd to watch the WNT in the state of Ohio. For Hope, the victory was No. 149 for her career in his 196th cap, extending both her USWNT records.
It came in a game that was played in stark contrast to the heart-stopping nature of the 3-3 draw in the first friendly against Japan on Thursday. This time, the U.S. settled in and played a controlled game, dominating possession for most of the match. That development left coach Jill Ellis thrilled with her squad’s adjustments on their way to beating Japan for the first time since the 2015 World Cup Final.
“From the last game to this game, there were big positives,” Ellis said. “We had two big takeaways coming out of the first game, coming back from two goals down and our game management in the final period of the game. We broke down a lot of film, had some good meetings, and I saw a definite response.”
Before the match was called due to the stormy conditions, Hope kept the sheet clean while Johnston and Morgan tallied scoring strikes on each side of the halftime break. Johnston was assisted by Allie Long, while Crystal Dunn got the helper on Morgan’s 11th goal already in 2016. Afterward Morgan talked about the importance of playing a better game and how hard the USWNT worked to do so.
“We knew that with the disappointing draw we had last game, we wanted to come out here and have a pretty impactful game,” Morgan said. “We really wanted to work hard for each of our teammates, and I think that showed this game.”
The game was played at a pretty controlled pace at the outset, but the U.S. finally broke through after Japan failed to clear following a free kick. Long’s low cross from the left of the box found Johnston on the right, where she scored on a running shot in the 27th minute. The set-piece specialist has three goals on the year for the USWNT and has now logged eight over her national team career.
The U.S. struck again in the second half when Dunn bent the ball around a defender, and her perfectly-placed pass found Morgan sprinting up the middle. The USWNT’s leading scorer thus far in 2016 fired with her left foot to secure not just her 11th of year for the U.S. but the 67th of her career.
“Everything just feels good,” Morgan said. “It feels like I’m combining well with all of the attacking players. It has just been clicking really well, and I feel like we’re in the perfect place pre-Olympics.”
Hope held solid from there, before the weather forced an early end to the contest.
The WNT returns to the pitch for an international friendly with South Africa at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday, July 9 at 12 p.m. CT. The women play one more friendly thereafter before heading to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
With two more matches remaining before the Olympics, Hope could become to the first U.S. goalkeeper to reach 100 shutouts before the Women’s National Team leaves for Brazil.
- US women get weather-shortened 2-0 shutout over Japan (AP, Jun. 5, 2016)
- WNT beats Japan 2-0 (US Soccer, Jun. 5, 2016)