The United States women’s national team took on Colombia in Commerce City, Colorado on Saturday, winning 3-0. It took until the 55th minute for the US to break through on a Sophia Smith goal. Smith secured a brace in the 60th minute. Both goals were assisted by Rose Lavelle. In the dying minutes of the game (90’+1, to be exact) Taylor Kornieck scored in her USWNT debut assisted by Megan Rapinoe.
The USWNT had only two training sessions as a group before this game. It showed, especially in the scoreless first half. Ashley Hatch, replacing the injured Catarina Macario, was constantly slipping behind Colombia’s defense and calling for the ball; she barely received it. Both Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle had excellent chances in the fiirst half and missed.
The two most dramatic instances of missed opportunities were the two saved penalties in the 45th and 70th minutes. Experienced players Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle were both denied by goalkeeper Catalina Perez, who made several other impressive saves throughout the match. In his postgame thoughts on the saved penalties, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski remarked, “that’s part of the game. The goalkeeper did a great job. We’re gonna work on that a little more. We still believe that Lindsey and Rose are very good penalty takers.”
Many of the US substitutions made a substantial impact on the game, namely Ashley Sanchez and goalscorer Taylor Kornieck.
The USWNT’s seeming lack of momentum promptly changed at the half when Lindsey Horan was subbed out for Ashley Sanchez. Within minutes, Sanchez was dribbling circles around the Colombian defense. Regarding Sanchez’s standout second half, Coach Andonovski said, “I think Ashley Sanchez was one of the main reasons why we got more sophisticated in the second half. She asked different questions of the defenders.” Although she didn’t score, she reinvigorated the team and utilized her impressive technique to generate chances.
Taylor Kornieck, upon her entry into the match, officially became the tallest USWNT field player ever at 6’1”. She was able to parlay that height to make her a prime target for set pieces. In fact, her goal came off a set piece by Megan Rapinoe. Even if defenders do mark Kornieck, most of them aren’t tall enough to neutralize her in the box. Kornieck’s height, coupled with her recent good form with the San Diego Wave, make her an appealing option for the upcoming Concacaf W Championship in July. Andonovski all but admitted this fact in the post game presser, saying that “[w]e believe we’ll need her [Kornieck] in the tournament.”
Kristie Mewis, subbed on in the 73rd minute, appeared to be a like-for-like substitution for Andi Sullivan at the six. This is a relatively new look for Mewis, who tends to play more as an attacking midfielder. Andonovski brought her into the game to speed up the tempo of play. He praised her in the post-game press conference: “[s]ome of the balls she played behind the line were incredible.” Andonovski seemed open to seeing Mewis at the six again, especially given Sullivan’s recent injury. Given her performance, it seems likely.
Return of the Vets
Veteran players Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe made their long-awaited returns to the USWNT. Both made substantial contributions off the bench: Morgan drew the second penalty in the 69th minute and Rapinoe assisted the Kornieck goal in 90’+1’.
Morgan, in tandem with fellow halftime substitute Ashley Sanchez, opened up the game in a major way. The most noticeable thing about Morgan’s play this match was how her decoy runs successfully drew multiple defenders to her. This was exactly what allowed Kornieck to score. Instead of marking Kornieck, the Colombian defenders tried to double team Morgan, which proved to be a costly misstep.
Rapinoe, an excellent penalty and set piece taker, was able to play the role of provider well in the back half of the match. Her well-taken set piece is what got the US their third goal, after all. The Rapinoe-Kornieck connection is an interesting look that could prove to be invaluable in games to come.
The USWNT takes on Colombia again on June 28 in Sandy, Utah. Andonovski has an interesting challenge ahead of him in selecting the lineup for that game, as well as for the Concacaf W Championship in July. Expect some rotation in this second match, particularly to give the younger talent (such as Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma, and Sam Coffey) some quality minutes.