Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O’Hara, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams
The US women’s national team might have experienced big gaps in international play recently, but it was business as usual for them as they stepped on the pitch against Colombia in the first of two friendlies.
The first half started with relentless high pressure in attack and defense, yielding an early goal for a wide-open Sam Mewis as she picked up an easy cross from Megan Rapinoe and finished it on the ground. That was four minutes in.
But to Colombia’s credit, they didn’t let that goal become an omen of things to come despite the continued pressure. A combination of picking their moment, hard work to defensively collapse into the box, and some great goalkeeping from Sandra Sepulveda kept the USWNT frustrated and continually on the hunt.
The US’ high pressure defense eased off a bit as the first half went on, but they still didn’t give Colombia a lot of room to maneuver, with some of that pressure turning physical. Colombia began to dish it back out after about 20 minutes, yielding a slightly chippy turn for a while until the first yellow card came out for a foul on Sam Mewis near the end of the half.
Mewis got her second of the night in the 33’, once again making her way into the box relatively fancy free and knocking in a header sent back across the face of goal by Carli Lloyd. Lloyd was a big irritant for Colombia in the first half, despite her seemingly personal one-on-one battle with Sepulveda, who blocked or knocked away several Lloyd header attempts in a row. Aside from Lloyd, the US looked continually to service in from out wide to create scoring opportunities, heavily involving Megan Rapinoe and Lynn Williams. Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn weren’t called on to overlap on the outside run as much but were good extra wide options, as well as underlapping into the inside lane and looking for a floated ball in.
The second half started with a move we’ve all been waiting for: Catarina Macario subbed in for Megan Rapinoe, playing in a central-ish midfield role at first and forming a fairly deadly trio with Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn on the left. She and Horan seemed in simpatico from the jump, moving well around each other while Dunn provided the overlap in the wide channel, creating a multitude of problems for Colombia’s defenders. Macario was good at providing the initial ball from deeper, then making herself available with her follow-up run, as well as carrying the ball and looking for the shooting channel. Combined with her role as a set-piece taker for the USWNT already, it looks like she’s certainly going to be an integral part of their future plans.
Horan almost immediately drew a foul in the box, setting up the third goal of the night as Mewis buried the penalty to make it 3-0. Then in the 63’ Kristie Mewis came on for Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle came on for Sam Mewis. Lavelle moved more into the central midfielder role while Macario shifted even wider, although she continued to drift inside and roam around in space, serving as both pass maker and outlet. With both her and Lavelle on the field, the US looked more to try and play the ball through that central space, creating more scoring opportunities around the top of the box.
In the 72’ Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn came out for Midge Purce and Emily Sonnett. Purce went to RB and Sonnett to LB and continued providing width for the US as they kept up their crossing in the attack. Lynn Williams continued to dominate in her wide channel, pulling the Colombia defense in all sorts of directions, particularly with some setup from Lavelle to play her in. On the opposite side, Macario worked to play in Kristie Mewis, who was clearly hungry to score. Mewis eventually worked her way into the box, once again wide open, and was able to tap in a serve from Lloyd out wide, making it 4-0 (and five goals in a row over the past two games from the Mewii).
The game ended 4-0 at full time.
After the game, Vlatko Andonovski said of his team, “I thought we did a good job. At the same time I want to give credit to the Colombia players for doing a great job in the one-v-one duels. I thought that was the only area, when we were putting pressure, it came down to individual duels, I thought that was the only area where we could have done a little bit better and be more successful.”
He also discussed the return of Carli Lloyd, who played a full 90 in the game and had two assists. Despite Lloyd’s frustration with her own goalscoring, she was still highly active in the 9 role and had no appreciable drop off in work rate, which is somewhat astonishing when you remember she’s 38 years old. “She did a great job assisted on two goals, helped us win the ball back, went for 90 minutes in high tempo, great pace throughout the whole game. And I think it was just a good example for some of the younger players in terms of what it takes to be on the next level,” said Andonovski.
“There’s other roles for me to play besides scoring goals and I just had to find other ways to help the team in any way I could,” Lloyd said of her play on the field tonight.
Andonovski also had a small revelation about Catarina Macario’s debut. “Catarina initially was not going to play as 11,” he said. Her substitution slot was supposed to be for Sophia Smith, but Smith “got injured a little bit in the warmup,” according to Anodnovski, changing up some of his plans. “She did very good in possession and just floating around, finding the space, very good in the buildup.”
“I think she’s already so good and so fun to play with. She’s creative, she’s powerful, she’s really clever on the ball and has such a good shot,” Mewis said of Macario. Mewis was also obviously ebullient over her hat trick and seeing her sister score.
“I’m just so proud of Kristie,” said Mewis. She added later, “Being on this team and being a professional soccer player, there’s so few people that understand what that’s like and understand the ups and downs of that. I think for a lot of people maybe their families, their closest friends; there’ just so few people that really get it, and so to have my sister doing this alongside me, someone who really understands what we go through, what we do, how bad we want it, what we’re willing to give up to get it, I think it brings us so much closer and it’s awesome to have that support system here in this environment.”
The next USWNT game against Colombia will be Friday, January 22 at 7 PM ET.