The United States kicked off against Ireland missing usual stalwarts Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, and Morgan Brian and instead came out with relative newcomers Emily Sonnett, Samantha Mewis, and Lindsey Horan in the starting XI. But for all that the lineup was very different, it felt like old times with Carli Lloyd bagging a hat trick by the 28'.
Goal one, 6': Lloyd is left wide open in front of goal and easily taps in Alex Morgan's cross
Goal two, 22': Tobin Heath runs hard onto the ball and sends in service, Alex Morgan nods the ball down in front of goal, and Lloyd finishes it when Ireland keeper Emma Byrne can't control it
Goal three, 28': Lloyd pounces on an insanely bad back pass to Byrne and finishes calmly
The fourth goal in the 45' was actually offside, with Lloyd flicking on a ball in the box and Morgan finishing it off, much to Byrne's consternation.
The goals may not have been terribly spectacular in and of themselves, but the United States worked hard to set up most of them. Their ball movement wasn't half bad either, especially earlier in the half as they worked it around the field. There were some very nice moments when they worked it calmly out of the back before pushing forward again. Lindsey Horan was both playmaker and attacker, attempting a few deep runs into Ireland's defensive third, while Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg were effective in storming up the left flank (Heath was less effective when she neglected passing and pressure for dribbling too much, but that's nothing new).
But for all that Carli Lloyd scored a quick hat trick in the first half, the second half was when things got interesting.
Head coach Jill Ellis made four subs right off the bat, with Heather O'Reilly, Jaelene Hinkle, Stephanie McCaffrey, and Christen Press entering for Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, and Carli Lloyd respectively. Meghan Klingenberg shifted up to defensive mid and McCaffrey went left while O'Reilly went right.
Things naturally got more disorganized with Klingenberg in an unfamiliar position. It was obvious she wanted to push even higher, sometimes caught so far upfield she looked like a lone striker. But Press kept it together in front of Klingenberg, working hard at both creating chances and occasionally having a look at goal, which helped keep the pressure on Ireland.
McCaffrey struggled slightly on the left; thus far when she's been subbed on, she goes right and if O'Reilly is also on the pitch, she gets pushed left. Perhaps this was Ellis checking the limits of McCaffrey's versatility. In any case, McCaffrey certainly sparked more when she returned to the right side, with her O'Reilly-esque tendency to take on players and go at the endline.
Things got even more interesting in the 58' when the United States used its final subs in taking off Emily Sonnett and Alex Morgan for Kelley O'Hara and 17-year-old Mallory Pugh, who made her debut for the full national team. It's hard not to read symbolism into Pugh subbing on for Alex Morgan, her first cap and Morgan's 100th. In any event, Pugh made an event out of the whole thing with her first international goal, making it 5-0 in the 83' with a sharp header off a Press assist.
Pugh shows promise, poise, and a willingness to attack, but needs polishing - to be expected when one is 17 years old. Pairing up with the refined Christen Press could be one of the best things for the development of her soccer IQ.
The second half was definitely a little less coherent than the first, but that's to be expected with six subs, switched positions, and new players on the pitch. Pugh, Horan, McCaffrey, Mewis - they all represent the new wave of young players trying to integrate into the senior team. Combined with Dunn, Sonnet, and the somehow-already-a-veteran Press, the USWNT is poised to look radically different from the past couple of cycles, and that is no bad thing.