As the USWNT gets ready for the 2023 World Cup, they embarked on two friendlies against the Republic of Ireland. While the Americans had the team in green outmatched, the visitors had a solid game plan and stuck to it. They defended well and matched the speed and athleticism of the USA. In the end, the Stars and Stripes ground out a win thanks to a strong press that created a goal in the first half and a late penalty converted by Lindsey Horan.
The Americans lined up in the now familiar 4-3-3 with Alyssa Naeher in goal, a midfield three of Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, and Andi Sullivan and Naomi Girma with Becky Sauerbrunn paired at centerback. There would also be much fanfare about the return of Sophia Smith to the starting XI and Julie Ertz coming back into the squad.
Our Texas XI pic.twitter.com/WpiyYqpEmv— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) April 8, 2023
Ireland would mark captain Denise O’Sullivan’s 100th cap and set up in a 3-5-2. The formation set up the Irish to defend well and take advantage of chances to attack.
STARTING XI | USA v Ireland— Ireland Football ⚽️ (@IrelandFootball) April 8, 2023
Denise O’Sullivan leads us out on her 100th cap, while Sinead Farrelly makes her debut
Let’s GO ☘️#COYGIG | #USAIRL pic.twitter.com/y2YThPpKTG
GIFS OF... well, a few goals, but this was a hard fought game
The early going the USA had a hard time troubling the Ireland keeper as the team looked to be out of sync. The best chance of the game in the first 20 minutes came from Ireland as the team nearly scored on a corner as they were denied by Alex Morgan standing on the goal line.
Ireland’s set up was also very difficult for the USA to breakdown. The five midfielders offered options going forward and out of possession were effective in clogging up the middle of the pitch forcing the Stars and Stripes to go over the top for much of the half. Meanwhile, the three center backs also kept the American forwards at bay making for a frustrating first half.
The Yanks would have more success after the 30th minute when they team essentially pressed Ireland into oblivion. The team in green had no answer for it as attempts to play out of the back were bottled up and long balls forward were easily won by the stars and polkadots. The work from the USA would be rewarded as Emily Fox scored her first goal as an international on a long shot from the center of the 18 that Courtney Brosnan could not get a hand to.
Emily Fox scores her first-ever USWNT goal in style— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 8, 2023
Watch the game live now on TNT pic.twitter.com/vF7jxWhdsL
After an extended medical check due to a collision with Brosnan earlier in the game, Mal Swanson would once again require attention. This time in the 40th minute she challenged for a ball and suffered an injury to her left knee. She immediately grabed her leg and called for the trainers. After a few minutes she was carted off the field and replaced by Trinity Rodman. There would be seven minutes of injury time added but the teams would go into the half with the score 1-0.
The second 45 started with the USA pushing for a second goal only to be foiled by an energetic Ireland team all too eager to close down players on the ball and harry the Stars and Stripes at every turn. The USA had a solid chance when Rodman was played through on goal by Lavelle, but the forward’s shot flew over the bar.
In the 66th minute, a trio of subs would come on as Ashley Hatch, Julie Ertz and Emily Sonnett came in for Alex Morgan, Sullivan, and Crystal Dunn. In the 80th minute a penalty was given and Lindsey Horan stepped, converted her shot and gave the USA a 2-0 lead.
She draws the penalty, and she converts!— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) April 8, 2023
The goal would be followed by another sub as Rose Lavelle came off for Ashley Sanchez. As the game wound down, Ireland made a strong push for a goal as they created some moments of bother for Harris, but didn’t convert on anything.
In the end, the USA came away with a win in what was perhaps a tougher game than was expected.