There were some changes but not as many as you’d think to a line up dealing with several ongoing injuries. Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, and Kelley O’Hara were all unavailable for the USWNT’s friendly against Portugal in Philadelphia, while Ali Krieger was dealing with a family commitment. That meant starts for both Tierna Davidson and Emily Sonnett, which was somewhat surprising given the availability of Crystal Dunn and Casey Short.
Still, defensive choices didn’t seem to be too detrimental to the United States, as they opened up the first half with a goal in the 4’. Tobin Heath cleaned up a a ball dropped across face of goal by Christen Press and the US followed that up with plenty of midfield and forward pressure to keep Portugal pressed back. The midfield added numbers high at times, putting four and five players into Portugal’s back line, while also forcing turnovers to interrupt any attempt from Portugal to make a foray forward.
The US doubled their lead in the 18’ after Carli Lloyd earned a corner with her thwarted attack on goal from a steep angle. Press took the corner and literally dropped the ball on an unmarked Morgan Brian’s head at the far post. Brian barely had to move to pop the ball into the back of the net.
Portugal contracted a bit after that, looking afraid to get suckered out of position, giving the US some easy opportunities to play wide and drop balls into the box. But they also turned up their defending, swarming any player with the ball in the 18. That left room for the US to operate out of the midfield, with Horan, Ertz, and even Press picking up the ball in space and looking up, but Lloyd wasn’t able to pounce as required on forward passes.
The second half started with three subs, as Heath, Davidson, and Dahlkemper came out for Jess McDonald, Sam Mewis, and Crystal Dunn. Dunn went to left back and Ertz dropped into the back line, letting Mewis take over central midfield.
Lloyd made up for any missed opportunities in a hurry, scoring in the 52’ as a long McDonald throwin deflected into her path. Lloyd’s stabbing kick was good enough to make it 3-0.
The United States made another substitution en masse in the 60’, pulling Brian, Sonnett, and Horan and putting in Mal Pugh, Allie Long, and Casey Short. Lloyd dropped back, making it a Mewis - Long - Lloyd midfield.
The US took a while to adjust to all the changes, getting tangled up a bit in midfield with their ball movement. They got stuck trying to move the ball out of the back with sloppy passing, but eventually crisped up again.
Christen Press had a goal ruled out in the 78’ as a switch to McDonald put her into space for the cross. Unfortunately, as the ball deflected off the goalkeeper’s hands, it hit Press and was ruled a handball. The US was unbothered, making it 4-0 anyway in the 82’ as Carli Lloyd took that wide right space for herself, juked her defender, and hit Allie Long near post. Long dropped her head smartly to deflect it in.
Press had another go in the dying minutes of the game, bringing the ball down in the box and setting herself up for a shot, but the ball hit the post. It was an unlucky moment for Press, who was a handful for defenders all night long whether she drifted wide or moved central.
Portugal had a late push forward, trying to exploit space behind with Dunn pushed high, but the US defended it out and finished the game at 4-0.
For all that the US had the occasional issue working their way through Portugal’s defensive shell, particularly while trying to reorganize themselves after group substitutions, they looked just fine, particularly given that many of them are sorely in need of a rest that they’re just not going to get as NWSL approaches playoff season (that sound you hear is Rory Dames yelling in the distance for Julie Ertz to sit out even 45 minutes). The midfield again showed off their ability to fluidly adapt, with Ertz, Mewis, and Horan drifting in and out of each other’s spaces. Action from the fullbacks was varied - to be expected, given Davidson being shuffled out of her more familiar central role. But Sonnett and Short were active on the wings; it was particularly nice to see Short getting good minutes and showing her ability to work in the current system.
In the end it was a win with no injuries in front of a record friendly crowd of 49,504 on a Thursday night in Philly and the team can inch ever-closer to a (hopefully) restful offseason.