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USA blanks Russia 4-0 in Frisco

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Braces from Crystal Dunn and Allie Long got the result.

Soccer: Women's National Team Friendly-Russia vs USA Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Short, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelley O’Hara, Allie Long, Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn

Jill Ellis returned to a 4-4-2 to play Russia instead of continuing to tinker with her 3-back formation. Allie Long returned to her place in the midfield and Ellis lined up Klingenberg, Short, Sauerbrunn, and O’Hara in the back.

That put Pugh, Mewis, Long, and Lavelle in the midfield with Lloyd and Dunn as the top two, though Lloyd dropped behind the forward line here and there to help out on defense and get the ball moving. Letting Lloyd stay higher on the pitch paid off almost immediately as she had a chance in the first minute.

Lavelle also galloped out of the gate, immediately establishing dominance over the right side of the field while expanding her territory in centrally. She found a rapport with several players, including the overlapping Kelley O’Hara, and kept the ball moving with a preference for driving to the center to either drop off a pass to a teammate or tee up a chance for herself.

The United States scored their first goal in the 10’ when Lloyd fed an excellent ball up to Dunn, who placed it well in side netting.

Dunn was also a troublemaker for the entire first half, though she found herself half a step offside several times and needed a bit to adjust to a defense that clearly couldn’t keep up with her.

Then another goal in the 18’ as Lavelle served in a nice corner to Long at the near post. Long needed the barest of flicks to get the ball over the line, making it 2-0 and getting Lavelle her first international assist.

Russia gave the US plenty of space for the rest of the half to move the ball around and make runs; both Lavelle and Pugh spent what might have been considered too much time with their ball at their feet were they facing a better team. But the Russian defenders had to work hard just to minimize the chances from the one-two (and three-four) punch of Dunn, Pugh, Lloyd, and Lavelle.

Dunn made it 3-0 in the 39’ as she pounced on a badly handled ball from a Russian defender and placed it again, picking up a brace on the night.

There were a few minor tests for the defense, but nothing Sauerbrunn or Short couldn’t sweep up. O’Hara had a grand time working the right side, providing a partner for Lavelle for width on the right. Lavelle was the star of the show in the first half, repeatedly embarrassing players with things like this.

The second half started with some subs for the United States as Klingenberg and Lloyd came out for Ali Krieger and Alex Morgan respectively. Krieger slotted into the center with Sauerbrunn, letting Short move out left, where she could move much more freely.

The second half was slower and a bit sloppier than the first half. Pugh did not have the sharpest night and the second half didn’t improve that; she spent too much of the game hanging on to the ball, perhaps lulled into a sense of security by Russia’s lack of pressure. Lavelle also seemed to tire as the half wore on, which left the US without a lot of the movement that made the first half so impactful.

Christen Press came on for Crystal Dunn in the 56’, moving up top to pair with Morgan. Press was slightly ineffectual on the night as well; she kept pulling shots wide, not quite calibrated on target. She and Morgan both caused plenty of chaos, especially as Russia’s defense tired out and the two of them were free to run between players as they pleased, but neither of them was quite able to get a ball on frame. They both did manage to get the ball across the face of goal several times but the lack of a finisher on those balls is something to keep an eye on.

Megan Oyster subbed in for Kelley O’Hara in the 68’, which pushed Krieger back into her usual RB position. A back four of Short - Oyster - Sauerbrunn - Krieger is definitely something Ellis should consider for the future. For now, they weren’t particularly tested by Russia, evidenced by the multiple opportunities for Sauerbrunn to penetrate deep in the middle.

Allie Long made it 4-0 in the 70’ off a Pugh ball barreling into the box. She made up for an earlier missed PK when the ref whistled for a rough takedown on Pugh in the box. Long scuffed that shot wide, but was able to use her head here to pick up a brace herself.

Lavelle came out in the 78’ for Megan Rapinoe and Pugh came out for Amy Rodriguez, who returned to the pitch for the first time since 2015 after taking time off to have her second child. Rapinoe and Rodriguez went left and right respectively as like-for-like subs; Rapinoe didn’t take too long to settle in, but Rodriguez needed a little bit longer. She eventually did start to once again bring US dominance on the right as she combined with Krieger, but with both Lavelle and Lloyd off the pitch, it felt like the US was missing a bit of connectivity in the middle, right ahead of Mewis and Long.

The game ended at 4-0, a good result as the team returned to a 4-4-2. Rose Lavelle obviously had an intense first half, emphasizing that her flashy debut against England was no fluke. But it should be kept in mind just how little resistance Russia offered in this match, as they allowed the US plenty of time and space and especially in the second half looked wary of pushing too high lest they get exposed behind. The defense had one or two troublesome moments but for the most part were able to recover and reset in peace, looking up the field without much pressure. The US will need to be able to replicate its first half energy and ball movement against a tougher opponent, perhaps Norway this June.

The next USA friendly will be Sunday, April 9 at 2 PM ET. It will air live on ESPN.