Starting XI: Ashlyn Harris, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Meghan Klingenberg, Casey Short, Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Allie Long, Crystal Dunn, Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd
Ellis started her same XI from the previous game against Russia except for a switch in goal, the expected rotation of Ashlyn Harris in for Alyssa Naeher. The team was back in its 4-4-2, with Lavelle asked to pinch inside from the right and O’Hara expected to move up to cover that space. Klingenberg and O’Hara were almost constantly pulling the field as wide and high as possible so that the team was going forward in more of a 2-5-3.
The first half started a bit slow and mostly stayed that way, with spikes in activity as the United States surged forward. To their credit, Russia did not keep 10 players behind the ball, but at the same time, neither did they particularly press the US. That lack of pressure made the United States’ sometimes less-than-crisp passing a bit frustrating, but they also had some very excellent ball movement, especially when going through Rose Lavelle (yes, her again).
There were also quite a few nice balls slipped through the gaps in the Russian defense, with Pugh, Lloyd, Dunn, and Lavelle all running onto those chances at various times.
It took a bit for the US to get their first goal, coming off a penalty in the 20’ as Crystal Dunn was brought down from behind in the box. Carli Lloyd stepped up and converted, though Russia’s GK Grichenko managed to get her glove on the ball.
The game continued at a rather leisurely pace until the 37’ when a long diagonal ball hit Lavelle lurking top left. She was able to run into space and pick her spot, placing the ball nicely near post.
Pugh to Lavelle = Lavelle's first international goal. pic.twitter.com/FEKhqdbkAQ— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) April 9, 2017
The United States scored again less than a minute later as Lloyd slipped a nice ball up to Klingenberg, making another high run on the left, and Dunn leapt at the cross to finish it one-time.
Russia got one back in the 42’ after the ref called a soft yellow on Casey Short, who was marked up tight with a Russian player. Nadezhda Karpova roofed it as Harris guessed the wrong way, making it 3-1.
The last goal of the half was rather unfortunate for Russia. Lavelle sent in a corner and Lloyd’s header ricocheted off of a defender’s back for an own goal, making it 4-1 in stoppage.
The second half started off with more of the same, though it seemed perhaps there might be some more energy in the team as Crystal Dunn scored in the 48’. Casey Short launched a great ball for Pugh to get in behind; Pugh beat her defender with pace and centered it for Dunn in the box.
Then came subs in the 54’ as Lloyd, O’Hara, and Lavelle came out for Alex Morgan, Megan Oyster, and Christen Press. Oyster went into the back four at CB which once again allowed Short to move left, with Klingenberg going right. Dunn and Morgan played in the top two, though Press clearly had permission to push as high as she liked.
But even with fresh legs on the field, the game continued in drowsy mode, with Russia not really offering any pressure and the United States not looking crisp. Pugh still had some dynamism in her movement both on and off the ball but no more goals would be forthcoming.
The most exciting part of the second half was the 73’ sub of Jane Campbell for Ashlyn Harris, giving Campbell her first cap in goal for the United States. Dunn and Pugh also came out for Lynn Williams and Megan Rapinoe. Campbell should have come in at least at the half if Ellis was going to cap her; it’s not as though she really needed to ensure the US was solidly in the lead against Russia before switching keepers, but at least Campbell has been capped now and will probably get more over the next two years.
Press had a good look on goal in the 78’, using quick footwork to open up space under pressure and snapping off a shot that Grichenko had to parry wide.
Russia had half a chance at the end of a game, sending a ball across the face of goal with a forward running far post, but nothing came of it, and the game ended at 5-1.
The game was a lot more boring than the scoreline suggests. One goal was a PK and one was an OG. Allie Long and Sam Mewis were fine in midfield, but they didn’t have to be more than that based on the quality of their opponent. Pugh and Lavelle remain two very interesting young players to watch. Meanwhile, it’s frustrating to see Alex Morgan and Christen Press not scoring in games like these, though it’s perhaps telling that the quality of chances dwindled after Lavelle left the game.