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USA vs. Colombia recap: double debut goals!

Catarina Macario is everything you dreamed of and more, Midge Purce gets on the scoresheet, and this team is definitely hurtling towards more excellence.

Soccer: U.S. Women’s National Team International Friendly Soccer-Colombia at USA Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson, Alana Cook, Ali Krieger, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams

It took Catarina Macario just under three minutes to score both the first goal of the night and her first career goal in a United State jersey. Ali Krieger made her run on the right, bounced in a nice cross, and Macario shook her defender to tap it in to make it 1-0. It wasn’t quite a forecast of things to come but it was close, as the United States continued what they started in game one, peppering the Colombia defensive third with plenty of crosses from the left and right and a handful of direct balls up the middle, with a sprinkling of Sam Mewis carrying the ball out of deep while the front line pushed ahead of her for good measure.

The Macario show didn’t end there, particularly as Lavelle played and stayed high ahead of Mewis and formed an exciting and unpredictable duo at the top of the box. But there was also Macario dummying a run onto a pass, leaving it behind while she peeled defenders off the passing lane to allow Lynn Williams to run into free space, or her small unselfish touches in the box trying to set up her teammates, or her ability to hold the ball and put it onto her shooting foot with two or three players in her face.

The US also continued their work on pressing out of possession, only having to drop quickly a few times off of lost one-v-one battles or intercepted passes. Colombia certainly kept their heads up, looking to close down those passing channels and try to pick out an errant ball and quick counter. But the US defended well as a group, and center backs Davidson and Cook did good jobs playing into the team’s strategy regrouping on the back line, then having a center back look for the play through the central channel, usually picking Mewis as their option to move things forward.

The second goal came in the 35’ as Rapinoe picked up the ball in the box, took a shot, and had it deflect off a defender to skip inside the post, just past Sandra Sepulveda’s outstretched hands. Rapinoe would make it three in the 43’ as Colombia once again had a penalty called on them, this time for a tussle that brought down Sam Mewis in the box. Rapinoe buried it nicely low in the corner.

To the very end of the half, Macario, Lavelle, and Williams were engaged in fast, fun interplay, moving off of the ball and one another to open up the Colombian defense and put each other either in crossing or shooting position.

The second half started with no changes to the lineup. Colombia tried to up the pressure somewhat, but the US stuck tot heir plan, finding a nice opportunity through Cook playing a direct ball to Macario, who won her player battle and picked up Rapinoe in the wide channel. Rapinoe switched the field, where Krieger was waiting to set up yet another cross.

Lynn Williams opened up the second half scoring in the 60’, heading in a nice little serve from Sam Mewis. Then came the first slew of subs in the 62’, with Rapinoe, Macario, and Lvaelle off, and Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, and Lindsey Horan on. In an extremely exciting moment, Dunn went in as a forward and not a fullback and drifted between that position and center mid for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter Sam Mewis went down with what looked like a painful left ankle injury. She limped off the field by herself and was later seen icing her ankle, as well as walking after the game, but still with a limp. Kristie Mewis subbed in for her, with Midge Purce also coming on for Lynn Williams in the 76’. That made a forward line of Dunn - Lloyd - Purce, which absolutely did not help Colombia in feeling less wide pressure or having to defend fewer crosses.

In the 79’ the United States used their last sub to take off Krieger and bring on Emily Fox at left back, switching Sonnett over to the right side. The game lost a little coherence mid-half, stopping and starting play with corner kicks and throw ins, but the team adjusted again, with Horan taking on box-to-box support and Dunn drifting central as needed. Kristie Mewis added to the crossing action when she wasn’t also crashing the box, adding to the pressure on Colombia’s defense. Purce in particular dug into her attacking role, taking the ball endline over and over on her end, and making nicely-timed runs as a target for crosses from the left side. Eventually, Purce made good on all those runs, scoring her first USWNT goal in the 86’ as she skipped in a header off a ball from Lloyd.

The game ended at 6-0, another healthy reminder that the USWNT has an extremely versatile bench and that Vlatko Andonovski has a vision for each of his players and has them working together on a clear plan.

After the game, Andonovski said that even though this was a lopsided game, they would be drawing information from both the defense and offense. “We can evaluate the defense when we’re in possession of the ball. How much are they helping in the build up, are they able to find our six, are they able to find our tens, penetrating passes, advancing forward. There’s so many things,” he said. “Working from the October camp on, we started tweaking the way that we’re defending a little bit. It seems like we’re moving in the right direction. The stats show that we’re moving in the right direction. I still feel like there are things we can get better at. But on the other side I feel like we’re able to create more opportunities.”

He also complimented the performances of Dunn and Purce, saying that Dunn in particular was always a strong possibility to come in as a forward in one of these games, and that possibility got even bigger after the injuries to Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith. “The thought that Crystal may play forward started way back even when we selected the roster,” he said. “I had the idea and Crystal texted me as soon as the rosters came out with a little smiley face, that she saw that the roster is a little bit unbalanced, a little bit more defenders and less forwards.”

He added, “We know that Midge is a good forward. There’s no doubt that she’s a good forward. obviously we saw something in her that may help us or help her become a good fullback and we’re going to continue working as we go forward but when we need a forward, obviously she’s good enough and showed that she can do a good job there.”

Catarina Macario also spoke to media after the game. On the dynamism of her partnership with Lavelle, she said, “Rose and I were talking about this yesterday, how we really like playing with each other. I think the coaches know our characteristics and so they didn’t necessarily have to say anything out of the norm, like oh you guys play with each other. It was more a natural thing to happen. I know that she played me a few good balls - great balls, but my finishing wasn’t that well today, and so I hope that I can repay her the next time.”

Macario also said that after her first cap, she was asked (Macario implied with a smile that it was a very strong ask) by her teammates to give a speech in the locker room. “I just told them how surreal it was, how unbelievable it was, the fact that I was actually playing with the people that I grew up watching,” she said.

The United States is next scheduled to play in the SheBelieves Cup, starting on February 18 in Orlando, Florida.