In a game that would see the USWNT take on a decidedly second, at best, choice New Zealand squad, the team struggled a bit to find its footing. The first half was a bit slow and disjointed but the second saw the USA adjust and make some substitutions to ultimately pull off a convincing win 4-0. The trip might not see the USA take on the toughest opposition, but they will get valuable experience staying in hotels and seeing some venues they would visit in the summer.
The USA lined up in their familiar 4-3-3 with Taylor Kornieck’s first start in midfield next to Lindsey Horan behind Rose Lavelle and Naomi Girma next to Becky Sauerbrunn.
Our debut XI in 2023— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
Full Lineup Notes » https://t.co/Sv9DayYo0X
@hbomax + @NBCUniverso / @peacock pic.twitter.com/8qTBdRwxka
New Zealand set up in a 4-4-2 hoping they could maintain well organized banks of four with their squad of players featuring for semi-pro sides, American universities, as well as a few representing the A-League, NWSL and sides in Europe still on their winter break.
Here's how we start vs @USWNT at @skystadium— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) January 18, 2023
Congratulations to Grace Neville who makes her Ford Football Ferns debut, the 199th player to do so. #NZLvUSA pic.twitter.com/QqdnutFQgG
GIFS well, not gifs from HBOMax who did not do much on social media to promote the game... BUT GIFS OF the USA oddly struggling to breakdown the Ferns and then not struggling anymore
The USA started in dominant form keeping the ball for long stretches but it would be over 15 minutes before they had a serious challenge on goal. It came when Lavelle dribbled into the box and found space to send a shot on goal. Her effort was a tad underpowered and it was a foot too wide to trouble the keeper. A few minutes later a blocked shot found its way to a wide open Horan who was perhaps overwhelmed by the absolute lack of defenders standing in front of her to kick the ball with enough power to beat Erin Nayler.
¡CEEEERCA EL ‘TEAM USA’!— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) January 18, 2023
@LindseyHoran tuvo la primera para @USWNT
Pero le faltó fuerza a esa pelota
Disfrútalo EN VIVO por @peacock ➡️ https://t.co/uwruh01NIN#AmistosoFemenino #USWNTtelemundo pic.twitter.com/IVp1vngRLr
If it seems like this is an underwhelming recap... well, the performance matched that in the first half. There was a highlight when Midge Purce woke everyone up and fired a schross that saw Nayler thanking her post for keeping the game scoreless.
@100Purcent— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
Aside from that, the USA had a difficult time breaking down New Zealand. It seemed like a breakthrough was found just after the 40th minute as Mal Swanson sent a free kick into the box that was touched, or not, by Horan and sent into goal. A replay seemed to show that the midfielder didn’t connect with the ball, but the offside flag was raised nonetheless. That would be the last notable moment of the half as the teams went to the locker rooms at 0-0.
Vlatko would go to the bench and bring on Trinity Rodman for Midge Purce, Sofia Huerta for Crystal Dunn, Andi Sullivan for Taylor Kornieck, and Alana Cook for Naomi Girma. It would pay off in short order as Rodman found Swanson on a cross sent in from the right wing that the forwarded headed home to make the score 1-0.
The ball from @trinity_rodman, the finish from @MalPugh— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
@NBCUniverso / @peacock pic.twitter.com/8PXh84LJ3I
Aside from the subs, the USA also upped the tempo and began applying more pressure when not in possession. The result was more disruption to the Ferns defensive shape and space for crosses as well as open passing lanes near and in the 18 yard box.
One of those passing lanes would be exploited as Lavelle hit a nifty backheel pass into the path of Alex Morgan who charged on goal and sent a shot past the keeper to make it 2-0.
.@roselavelle @alexmorgan13— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
Lavelle was subbed out for Ashley Sanchez after the goal, but the USA had found a winning formula of - play a bit quicker, press the Ferns and try to punish their mistakes. Punishment would be dealt once again by Swanson as a long ball from Sanchez split the defenders and forced Naylor out of goal only to be rounded as the striker put the USA up 3-0.
✌️ for @MalPugh— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
After the score, Swanson came off for Lynn Williams and then about seven minutes later Williams scored on another assist from Rodman.
.@lynnraenie for a fourth!— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) January 18, 2023
That would be the last goal as the USA overcame a slow start to the match and came away with a solid four goal effort in the second half.