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Christen Press hat trick lifts USWNT over Romania, 8-1

Christen Press scores hat trick, Alex Morgan gets the brace and Jessica McDonald earns first cap.

Romania v United States Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The United States women’s national team (USWNT) defeated Romania, 8-1, in the first of a pair of international friendlies with the team. The win comes in the teams’ first ever meeting and the next-to-last match in the USWNT’s 2016 schedule.

Despite the high score line, the game lacked much excitement, as the USWNT easily dominated possession in their offensive half for what felt like the majority of the match. That was largely because of the efforts of veterans Christen Press, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath and fellow Olympian Crystal Dunn.

Press was one of the most dynamic players on the field for the USWNT, scoring a hat trick in the first half of the match. She started off the U.S.’s scoring in the 8th minute when Romanian goalkeeper Roxanna Oprea’s goal kick was blocked by Crystal Dunn. The ball deflected out to Press, who easily blasted a shot past Oprea to give the USWNT the lead. Press then contributed to the second goal of the night when she sent a ball into space for Tobin Heath, who fired off a shot from the left side of the box to put the USWNT up 2-0.

Soon after, Romania’s Laura Rus was shown a yellow card after fouling Dunn, pulling her down from behind by her jersey. The foul resulted in the USWNT being awarded a free kick that was essentially a short corner kick, and the set piece resulted in a goal when Morgan Brian, left completely unmarked by Romania, made a run onto Heath’s free kick and scored on a diving header. The goal was the USWNT’s third of the night and the fifth of Brian’s international career.

Romania got on the board in the 33rd minute when Ashlyn Harris got caught far off her line and had to decide whether to go forward or back to try to stop a run by Laura Rus. Harris chose to go forward, which proved to be a mistake as she was easily beat by Rus, who easily sank and easy shot on a wide open goal.

However, the USWNT immediately answered when Crystal Dunn moved the ball up the right flank and sent a cross in to the box. The ball was deflected a few times before Press was able to get her foot on it and bury it in the back of the net. Just moments later she would make it a hat trick when she ran through two teammates to get to a cross and send it into the bottom far corner. The USWNT went into halftime with a 5-1 lead.

Jill Ellis, head coach of the USWNT, made five substitutions at the start of the second half, including subbing in Jessica McDonald of the NWSL Championship-winner Western New York Flash for her first cap. McDonald was the only player to receive her first cap tonight against Romania.

Despite fresh legs and three more goals scored for the U.S., the second half of the match really dragged. While part of that may have been because of Romanian fatigue and American desire not to run up the score too much, part of it was also sloppy play and lack of formation by the home side. Allie Long, who was playing center back, at times was so high she seemed to be playing striker. However, none of that really mattered as almost the entirety of the second half was spent in the USWNT’s offensive half.

In the 52nd minute, Alex Morgan made her presence known when she headed in a cross from Crystal Dunn for the USWNT’s sixth goal of the night. She had a second opportunity for a goal after Allie Long was tripped up in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for the U.S. Morgan lined up at the spot and took the shot, but Oprea dove and punched Morgan’s shot away for the save. She redeemed herself in the 75th minute when Dunn’s cross bounced in front of her and Morgan side-kicked the ball into the goal to put the USWNT up 7-1.

The final goal of the night was scored by Romania, but not in the right goal. In second-half stoppage time, Tobin Heath took a shot, and a Romanian defender tried to block the shot, only to send into her own goal by mistake. The USWNT took a 8-1 lead, which would be the score line at the final whistle.

If Jill Ellis was wanting to learn about her team tonight or to truly start preparing for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, then tonight’s game was not the way to do that. While it was a win for the USWNT and helps to preserve the team’s unbeaten streak this year (their loss to Sweden in penalty kicks in the Olympic quarterfinal round officially counts as a tie), it was not a contest that presented any real competition to the U.S. The team needs to play higher ranked opponents that will truly test the team, even if it means the USWNT might lose. After all, wouldn’t it be better to lose—or tie and be eliminated—a meaningless friendly than a major tournament match?

The USWNT will close out its 2016 schedule in its second international friendly with Romania on Sunday, November 13 at 9:30 p.m. EST. The match will be aired on FoxSports1 and streamed online at FoxSportsGo.com or the FoxSportsGo app.