The United States' Women's World Cup prep began in earnest on Saturday in St. Louis, where the Americans took on New Zealand in a friendly at Busch Stadium. It was about as good of a start as the U.S. could have hoped for too, as the Americans smashed the Kiwis, 4-0, in front of a huge crowd.
Jill Ellis opted for a more traditional team than we have seen from her of late. Carli Lloyd was back in the center of midfield and Megan Rapinoe was out wide, along with Christen Press, giving the Americans two recognized wingers. Having Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg on the outside of defense also meant that the U.S. had two actual fullbacks too. And it paid off.
The scoring started in the 14th minute when a U.S. crossed was cleared to the top of the box. That's where Klingenberg got it it at a full sprint and crushed a shot with her first touch, sending a screamer into the top left corner. It was a goal reminiscent of her rocket from World Cup qualifying and gives her the team's two best goals of the last couple years.
Despite being the much better team, the U.S. failed to find a second goal. They hit the bar twice and just missed on a couple other opportunities. It looked scarily similar to other matches from the last year, as they let the Kiwis hang around in a match the Americans should have put away long ago. But in the 76th minute, the U.S. put things away.
Rapinoe got free down the left and cut towards goal. That drew the defense, allowing her to drag the ball back for Lori Chalupy, who hit a good shot into the upper corner for a 2-0 advantage.
Once the Americans had some breathing room, they poured it on. Three minutes after Chalupny scored, Julie Johnston got on the end of a free kick at the penalty spot and hit a beautiful looping header into the back of the net. Then moments later, Morgan Brian was played in and she buried her shot, capping off the 4-0 win.
One match does not fix a team. This doesn't mean the U.S. are suddenly clicking and ready to win the World Cup. But a return to basics -- and the most sensible team we have seen in a while -- has the arrow pointing up for the first time in a while. The Americans won't be together again until World Cup training camp next month, but after a thrashing of an admittedly poor New Zealand, there are some reasons for optimism as the U.S. gets ready for this summer's tournament in Canada.