Interim manager Twila Kilgore led the United States Women’s National Team to a 3-0 victory over China at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While the unbeaten streak extends to five matches, familiar issues in the final third continue to plague the four-time world champions. The group is bouncing back from a disappointing showing at the World Cup and building towards next summer’s Olympic Games.
The USWNT opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Trinity Rodman received a ball over the top from Naomi Girma and streaked down the wing before hitting a perfect centering pass into the path of an onrushing Sophia Smith. The 23-year-old forward was able to touch the ball past opposing goalkeeper Xu Huan.
Soph + Trin, that's good soccer. pic.twitter.com/6Y9XrkJS5V— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) December 2, 2023
The hosts continued to press for another goal throughout the first half. Smith had a long-range effort saved in the 12th minute followed by a succession of open shots in the box that should have broken open proceedings. China enjoyed a few chances but never posed a serious threat to score, lacking cohesion and final quality.
Lindsay Horan doubled the lead in the 52nd minute for her 31st international goal. A speculative cross into Jaedyn Shaw took a favorable bounce and snuck past a late-diving Huan. While undoubtedly a fortuitous turn of events, the unexpected finish was in line with the run of play, as Kilgore’s side was in complete control from the opening of the second half.
The Great Horan adds a second for the home team pic.twitter.com/3xwAFnhqx3— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) December 2, 2023
China’s presence in the match continued waning, with any hope of securing even a draw growing increasingly less likely. Perhaps in light of the calm environment, Kilgore inserted 2023 NWSL Rookie of the Year Jenna Nighswonger and Olivia Moultrie into the match, giving both players their respective senior international debuts. Rodman put the game away in the 77th minute, capping off a stellar solo run from Midge Purce and a deflected cross from Shaw.
The USWNT largely controlled the match, keeping the ball in the attacking half and creating multiple opportunities from high pressure. The failure to put away the win in the first half is a continuing issue, as the lack of finishing and inability to seize upon chances should be a priority for incoming manager Emma Hayes. For large stretches, China was unable to break past the holding midfielder duo of Horan and Emily Sonnett, who should form the backbone of the squad at the Olympics and beyond – both were stout defensively and intelligently advanced possession in the build-up phase.
a tap tap taparoo pic.twitter.com/HpxfuhwffH— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) December 2, 2023
While a 3-0 victory on a 20-2 shot differential and a 64-36 possession advantage is hardly cause for alarm bells, there is clear room for reflection and improvement. This was far from a strong China team, which perhaps should have been dominated by the superior hosts. However, the job was completed: a multi-goal win, a shutout, and multiple debuts for new players.
A quick turnaround awaits, with squad rotation and minor tinkering expected. The USWNT returns to action on Tuesday, December 5th to close out the year and take on China for the second time. The match is set for 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.