For the second game in a row, the teams almost didn't play. In the wake of the USWNT walking away from their friendly in Hawaii due to unsafe field conditions, Trinidad & Tobago also had a player strike, this time in San Antonio over treatment by their federation.
This isn't the first time the T&T women's team has publicized poor treatment by their federation; in 2014 during CONCACAF qualifying, they arrived in the United States with $500 and no equipment. T&T ended up having to rely on donations that time to get their players adequately shod and fed, with volunteers in Dallas bringing the team pallets of snacks and Gatorade.
Now once again, as of last night the team wasn't going to play due to the little matter of not being paid. So with the spectre of two cancellations in a row looming large, US Soccer stepped in and arranged a loan to get players paid and get both teams to kickoff.
I'm told @ussoccer had to step in and loan T&T Fed'n money so players would play. Rewind to WWC Qs & team arriving in US w no $. Yep.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) December 11, 2015
The United States lined up just about at full strength, with Lindsey Horan sitting in midfield and orchestrating several attacks. Horan took some shots in the first half as well, including a low, driven shot that T&T goalkeeper Kimika Forbes had to be quick to smother.
Forbes definitely kept the scoreline manageable in the first half. The United States completely dominated run of play yet came out of the first half with only one goal, courtesy of a bizarre penalty call by the referee in the 21' when Alex Morgan collided hard with Forbes in midair as Forbes rushed to punch a ball out of her box. The ref awarded the penalty to the US even though Forbes clearly managed to get to the ball first and ended up with Alex Morgan's cleat in her stomach for her troubles. Carli Lloyd buried the penalty.
The rest of the half saw occasional cleanup from Becky Sauerbrunn or Julie Johnston, Kelley O'Hara and Meghan Klingenberg high on the flanks providing extra width in the attack, a fluid midfield shifting around, and several sharp runs into the box, especially from Crystal Dunn. T&T's few fast breaks into US territory came early in the half and subsided within the first fifteen minutes.
The second half was much more decisive, with a tired T&T doing their best to build a wall in front of their goal while still occasionally pushing forward. The US pretty much nixed those plans, ruling the game with an iron fist and leaving Solo, Sauerbrunn, and Johnston to kick dirt by themselves.
Horan continued to look sharp, assisting Alex Morgan on the US' second goal with a fantastic ball up that Morgan was able to run on to and calmly finish to make it 2-0. Then things really started moving with the subs of Stephanie McCaffrey, Christen Press, and Ali Krieger for Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, and Alex Morgan.
McCaffrey provided great energy on the right, combining well with Ali Krieger to create width and service. And as for Press, with Horan's help she pulled off a hat trick, boosting the scoreline from 2-0 to 5-0 in about 25 minutes. Lindsey Horan capped off a fantastic night with a goal of her own in stoppage. McCaffrey juked her defender and sent a low ball into the box, where Press dummied it for Horan. Horan finished cleanly for a final scoreline of 6-0.
This was a game that demonstrated the vital need to cycle new players into the senior team. Lindsey Horan immediately showed her quality with a savvy built of years in France at Paris Saint-Germain. Crystal Dunn made repeated incisive and nigh-unstoppable runs into the box. Stephanie McCaffrey's integration into the attack has her looking like the heir apparent to Heather O'Reilly (although it must be said that O'Reilly herself is still in peak condition but is mysteriously becoming one with the bench). And Christen Press is in position to become the focal point of the team's attack in years to come, alongside Alex Morgan.
Was this really much of a test, considering the opposition had no funding and very little time to prepare? No, it wasn't, but it did provide hints at what direction this team needs to take through the Olympics and beyond in order to remain competitive.
The last two games of the tour are against China PR, who the US last met in quarterfinals in the World Cup. Abby Wambach will almost certainly see a little time, as these games are her swan song, but with five other subs for each game, Ellis would be a fool not to look at every player she called into camp. But there will also be Olympic qualifiers and a four-nation mini-tournament between the United States, England, France, and Germany, so there are plenty of games between now and the Olympics to make sure everyone has a chance to state their case.