It was evident from the beginning of the United States' first game against China on the Victory Tour that they were facing much stiffer opposition that Trinidad & Tobago, who were dealing with a lack of funds and very little training time. China, on the other hand, had a bit more mustard to both their defense and offense, keeping things on a more even keel throughout the first half.
Head coach Jill Ellis opted for a more traditional lineup, with only Lindsey Horan among the recent callups plugged into the field players in a 4-4-2. Alyssa Naeher did pick up a start and her fourth cap in goal, all the more of note considering that minutes for either Naeher or Harris, especially against stiffer competition, have been thin on the ground. Usual starting GK Hope Solo has 184 caps and backup Ashlyn Harris has eight, raising questions about the readiness of this program to transition beyond the 2016 Olympics.
The rest of the lineup for the first half featured the defensive line fans got used to during the World Cup in Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, and Ali Krieger, and had Alex Morgan running up top with Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath in support. Klingenberg was very involved with the attack in the first half, providing all sorts of service from the left. Morgan, who seems to have finally come back to full physical health, continued to look hungry for goals, getting one called back in the 41' on a very tight offside call. A Morgan goal was not to be, however, as her shots were limited or straight up denied by China's keeper when she wasn't getting hamstrung by yet more close offside calls.
Crystal Dunn opened the scoring for the United States in the 39', sitting in a large gap in the box as Tobin Heath drew away several defenders. Dunn has consistently shown that she is an attacking threat, whether it's slamming the ball into the net or creating pressure. She should be high on the list of players being considered for the Olympics.
The second half saw immediate subs with Heather O'reilly and Jaelene Hinkle in for Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger. Klingenberg shifted right while Hinkle went into the left fullback spot. O'Reilly immediately made an impact with her trademark deep run and service from the right, which she repeated several times.
The United States was more in control in the second half and penetrated the box more, but neither Morgan nor Tobin Heath were quite able to find their footing around the goal, although Heath did have this moment of being okay at soccer.
Ellis used the rest of her subs in the 79', calling off Morgan, Heath, Horan, and Lloyd and putting in Christen Press, Stephanie McCaffrey, Emily Sonnett, and Abby Wambach.
Press almost immediately scored, taking control of the box at the top of the box, cutting back on a Chinese player, and scoring with her left from distance. Press continues to look comfortable under pressure, with good awareness of the players and space around her and a willingness to shoot quickly and accurately with either foot.
Christen Press doing Christen Press things. 2-0. #uswnt https://t.co/VYi66sOzYv— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) December 14, 2015
Stephanie McCaffrey very nearly made it 3-0 with a great run in the 90', slashing into the box and sending the ball across the face of goal. It bounced off the far post and spun agonizingly along the goal line before getting cleared, but McCaffrey is also among the young players making a case for herself for, if not the Olympics, at least for the future of the WNT.
Alyssa Naeher capped off the night with an acrobatic grab and kept a clean sheet, closing things out at 2-0 and another shutout on the Victory Tour.
There's just one game on the tour left now. Will Ellis finally cap Danielle Colaprico? Will Alex Morgan ever get ajudged onside again? Will Abby Wambach play more than 10 minutes in her farewell game? Tune in on Wednesday to find out.