In advance of this summer’s CONCACAF W Championship, the United States Women’s National Team headed to the comfortable confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the first of two friendlies against Colombia. Vlatko Andonovski’s noticeably inexperienced side emerged victorious in Commerce City, Colorado, reeling off a 3-0 victory against the visiting Las Cafeteras (The Coffee Growers). Though initially stymied, the American attacking group kept chipping away until finally overwhelming the opponent.
The USWNT started the match in a 4-3-3 formation. Casey Murphy earned the start at goalkeeper, her “third appearance of the year” and fifth overall cap, perhaps indicating a gradual change in the winds at the position. Megan Rapinoe — whose inclusion on the squad was described as a “head-scratcher” by Julie Foudy — began the match on the bench.
In his prescient pre-match press conference, Andonovski emphasized “[minimizing] the opponent’s time on the ball” by pressing hard and avoiding “defending for [their] lives.” The USWNT paired this tactical style with a traditional vertically-attacking game, attempting to constantly drive forward and catch the back line out of position through long passes. Colombia responded with a series of hard challenges to halt momentum and set the tone, a strategy that yielded initial success.
The USWNT created a flurry of opportunities at the end of the half, coming closest in the 43rd minute when Sophia Smith was brought down in the area. The referees were unmoved despite the furious protests from Colombian players and coaches. Lindsay Horan’s ensuing low, driven penalty attempt to the left side was saved by goalkeeper Catalina Pérez.
Lindsey Horan's penalty is stopped by Colombia's Perez! pic.twitter.com/qy4Eumzwes— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 26, 2022
Halftime appeared to have rejuvenated the home squad, bolstered by the substitutions of Alex Morgan and Ashley Sanchez. The breakthrough finally came in the 54th minute, a thoroughly deserved lead. Rose Lavelle latched onto a loose ball, dribbling forward before finding a streaking Sophia Smith with an accurate pass. The 21-year-old Portland Thorns attacker was able to power her shot through Pérez and into the back of the net.
With the dam broken, space opened up between the lines of the Colombian formation. A few minutes later, Smith scored her second goal, once again the recipient of a superlative steal-and-long-ball play from Lavelle. With the entire team struggling to find the necessary quality in the final third, the duo’s individual talent was on full display.
Maintaining control of proceedings, the USWNT earned a second penalty. Sanchez dribbled past a few opposing defenders, lofting an inch-perfect ball to a cutting Morgan, who was dragged down. Despite a better attempt than Horan’s effort, Lavelle saw her shot parried away by Pérez.
The Stars and Stripes continued to push for a third goal, ending the match on a high note. After Sanchez drew a foul, Rapinoe played an accurate free kick to a waiting Taylor Kornieck. The 6’1” San Diego Wave midfielder capped a dream debut with a glancing header to the back post.
Despite the 3-0 scoreline, the result was a bit underwhelming considering the USWNT’s possession and shot dominance, as well as Colombia’s inability to cross the halfway line. As stated on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, the group had a mere two training sessions together before this friendly. The rust was evident, with a lack of connection and cohesive movement to get behind the opposing back line. Ineptitude on penalties could be cause for concern ahead of a knockout tournament, but there should be enough time for Andonovski to work with his squad.
The USWNT returns to action on Tuesday, once again taking on Colombia. This time, the friendly is at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The final fixture prior to the CONCACAF W Championship, the roster will be pared down to 23 players. The competition serves as qualification for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics.