It wasn't quite the same fluid attacking team that faced Colombia a few days ago in Hartford, but the WNT was still good for some goals.
Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher; Tobin Heath, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Samantha Mewis, Carli Lloyd, Lindsey Horan; Crystal Dunn, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh
Interestingly enough, Ellis started mifielder Tobin Heath at right back, instructing the team to act as if it were a goal down and to press up the right, with Heath pushing Press higher. The US certainly executed on the right in the first half, but they pressed high on the left too with Meghan Klingenberg and Crystal Dunn going deep to cross the ball in or finding runners into the box on the ground, so it's not entirely clear that this Heath experiment was a meaningful one. Heath was pressing so high up the right that Becky Sauerbrunn was occasionally able to sweep in behind her and act as a right back.
Colombia found a rhythm here and there, but the United States struck in the 26' with a nice look from Lindsey Horan, who kept her head up and saw that Christen Press was primed to run into the box. Press stayed onside and managed to get on the end of Horan's long ball, tipping it over the head of Colombia's GK Catalina Pérez.
That hardly opened the floodgates though, with most of the action pushed outside to the wings and shots going wide. The next US goal came off a set piece in the 42', when Julie Johnston ran onto a Tobin Heath free kick and once again managed to just touch it over the goalkeeper.
Teams went into the second half 2-0.
Ellis made a few changes in the second half, subbing in the 60'. Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan, and Meghan Klingenberg were out; Whitney Engen, Allie Long, and Kelley O'Hara were in. Tobin Heath shifted left and the team carried on, still lacking the fluidity from the first game. Mallory Pugh had a few shining moments in the midfield; her capacity to turn with the ball and then leave defenders eating her dust is highly encouraging, but there still wasn't enough movement to break down Colombia's wall in front of goal.
There was one more sub in the 72', with Ali Krieger coming in for Carli Lloyd. Krieger slotted in at her usual right back position, which sent Kelley O'Hara to left back and pushed Tobin Heath back up into the midfield proper. Lloyd came off after a lackluster game, neither scorer nor provider on the day.
It took another set piece for that third goal. Once again, it came down to Julie Johnston, who flicked in a Heath free kick in the 79' with her head. Johnston being a threat on set pieces is no secret and her two goals were the price Colombia paid for not keeping a tighter rein on her in the box.
The game ended with a lot of holding in the back, looking for seams and trying to poke a bit at Colombia's bus. Pérez was key for Colombia, making several big stops, including a point-blank reaction save on a big Carli Lloyd volley. The game could have ended up 5- or 6-0, lack of fluidity notwithstanding, had it not been for Pérez's efforts.
In the end Ellis' experimentation really seemed to be for naught. Perhaps she'll try it again with Japan, instead of with a tired Colombian team that was also lacking a few key players, some of whom were being "punished" by their federation for speaking out against their working conditions.
.@MonicaGonzo reports COL's Daniela Montoya and Lady Andrade are being "punished" for speaking out against fed and not in Philly. #USAvCOL— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) April 10, 2016
But today, on a day when the United States was going to end up pressing high all over the field no matter what, shifting Heath into an odd position to play minutes that could have gone to Ali Krieger or Kelley O'Hara just seems wasteful - a point that was perhaps best summarized by a moment in the second half when center back Becky Sauerbrunn was called offside.
WNT players now disperse to their club teams to start the NWSL season. Their next friendly will be against Japan on June 2 and will probably be part of a two-game series given the length of that FIFA window matched with the corresponding break in NWSL play.