Coming off a hard-fought draw for the US and a loss for New Zealand both teams came out looking for a win today. On the front of the USWNT, the team saw the return of Alyssa Naeher in goal. Naeher suffered a right knee injury during the Tokyo Olympics that left her sidelined for the rest of the tournament and the NWSL season. She spoke on her injury saying, “... it's about not taking anything for granted. You never know when an injury is going to pop up, so it's about enjoying every part of it. Enjoying every training session, every meeting, every physical therapy session." Captain Becky Sauerbrunn was also in the starting eleven marking her 201st national team appearance. Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith, both standouts from the last game made up the frontline alongside Gotham FC forward Midge Purce. Sofia Huerta, a name who was in the national team pool for a period of time before getting cut by Jill Ellis, has made her way back onto the team and into the starting mix. Washington Spirit midfield Ashley Sanchez also earned her first start with the team in this game.
New Zealand kept their starting eleven the same except for Abby Erceg, North Carolina
Courage captain who picked up a knee injury but could potentially see minutes in the third game, in for Claudia Bunge, who made her national team debut in the game. and Betsey Hasset in for Daisy Cleverley. Ali Riley starts as usual, captaining the team. Along with that the start for Meikayla Moore marks her fiftieth appearance for the Ferns. Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen, well known names for the New Zealand side also got the start.
The game started with early pressure from New Zealand causing the ball to stay in the US’s half of the field. Midge Purce was able to strip them of the ball off a throw-in but it was quickly taken back by the New Zealand side. The first five minutes of the game were very back and forth with New Zealand getting into tight spots to cut off the USWNT crosses, making them play out of the back much more than they have in a while. However, a quick restart from the US side allowed them to catch the Ferns off guard and push the ball up the field. A cross from Sophia Smith was deflected by a defender to go in for an own goal. Just a minute later Midge Purce headed the ball down off a beautiful cross from Sofia Huerta that failed to be cleared by Meikayla Moore and made its way into the goal.
In the 8’ the Ferns earned a corner that was cleared by Alana Cook. Purce quickly collected and brought it all the way up the field but was deflected off a pass and went out for a throw. A good opportunity came again for the US in the 23’ minute with a cross from Sophia Smith with a lot of space, right to Midge Purce however, it was knocked away by Erin Nayler. It was loose in the box but ultimately kicked out. Sophia Smith had a shot in the 25’ minute of the match that just missed the goal. It was controlled by Sofia Huerta who took a shot that was deflected out.
A corner for New Zealand sent the ball just over their numbers in the box to the outside corner where Emily Fox, who has a great two games, was able to win the 1v1. The Ferns came very close to adding their name onto the scoresheet in the 31st minute with a shot from Olivia Chance that just barely missed the goal.
In the 36th minute of the game a pass into the box from Purce, intending for Smith, was deflected by Moore again for the third own goal of the match. Rebekah Stott, who made her first appearance since beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma the other night, subbed on just moments after for Moore.
Going into the half the USWNT held a 3-0 lead that they hoped to extend even more in the second half. Ashley Hatch, Washington Spirit forward, subbed on for Catarina Macario. Sophia Smith came off for Lynn Williams, and defender Tierna Davidson went on for Sauerbrunn. Prior to this match Andonovski stated that many of the players, including Sauerbrunn, are on limited minutes as they are still in preseason form and trying to ease into play.
In the 51’ of the match Sofia Huerta crossed a ball into the box right to the head of Ashely Hatch who was able to tip it in, just out of reach of Nayler for New Zealand. Her goal added to the tally giving the US a 4-0 advantage. The goal also marked Hatch’s first goal for the USWNT on US soil.
Trinity Rodman subbed on for Midge Purce, marking her second cap Rodmans. In the time she was in the match Rodman was knocked over quite a few times, sustaining a small injury that had her subbed out. With her being subbed out the USWNT went on to play donw a player for the remainder of the match.
In the post match press conference, Purce spoke about how she was proud of the overall team performance. On the own goals she spoke about creating plays that were difficult to defend, so although they were counted on the own goals the team felt they did good work to get into those scoring positions. The New Zealand head coach also went on to talk about how although it is disappointing to see one player score three own goals, Moore is an incredible player and person who belongs on the team.
Mallory Pugh subbed on a few minutes later in the 67’ for Ashley Sanchez. In the last few minutes of the match Pugh was able to add a fifth goal in the 93’ minute of the match, making the final score 5-0 in favor of the USWNT.
New Zealand looked great at times, applying pressure when they could but the US defense locked down, not allowing many opportunities to get shots off. Although they had good passing and possession they were ultimately unable to make anything of it.
Sofia Huerta was the player of the match both offensively and defensively remaining on top of things. She had consistent passes, and created multiple choices. Her crosses into the box were lethal, assisting the goal from Midge Purce, as well as linking up with multiple other passes. Sophia Smith was also another stand out of the match, completing 70% of her passes and creating several changes throughout the match. Emily Fox was incredible defensively on the left side. After the game on Thursday evening, head coach Vlatko Andovski said that Fox has “done tremendous” and is one of the most composed defenders he has seen as a rookie.
FINAL SCORE: 5-0 USWNT