Just as it did four years ago before their illustrious World Cup win, the United States Women’s National Team played its final match of its World Cup Series in front of 26,332 fans at Red Bull Arena.
The USWNT entered the game on the front foot, attacking heavily in the opening 10 minutes. Megan Rapinoe nearly put the U.S. on the board in the first five minutes, attempting to chip Mexico goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago, but the keeper was able to get a paw on the ball to keep it out of goal.
Rose Lavelle, who was recently named to her first ever World Cup squad, then tried to put one past Santiago herself, but she directed her shot right at the keeper for the easy save.
New Jersey native Tobin Heath, making her 150th appearance for the USWNT, was the first U.S. player to capitalize in the 11th minute. Santiago sent a pass intended for her defender inside the box but sent it long, and Heath seized the opportunity presented to her and ran onto the ball before cutting around the defender and into space. Santiago started to come off her line but hesitated at the six, allowing Heath to square up her shot to score the only goal of the first half.
Fans got a bit of a scare at the half-hour mark when forward Alex Morgan, making a run towards goal, got shaken up inside the box and stayed down, requiring trainers to attend to her on the pitch. It initially looked as though Morgan may have twisted her ankle, but with the American Outlaws behind her chanting her name, she got up and walked off the field on her own accord. Moments later, after a brief chat with Head Coach Jill Ellis on the sidelines, she re-entered the field to finish out the first half.
If Morgan did tweak her ankle, the injury didn’t last long. In the 35th minute, Morgan found herself making a breakaway run towards goal, using her speed to keep the Mexican defense trailing. Morgan fired off a hard shot on target, but Santiago got both hands in front of it to deny Morgan of a goal.
Just before the half, Heath nearly tallied an assist to go with her goal, sending a high cross right in front of the goalmouth for Crystal Dunn, who outjumped the defense to head the ball on goal. Santiago made the diving save, but even with the keeper getting her mitt on it, the ball nearly rolled in by the near post.
Coming into the second half, Ellis made five subs and a couple of positional changes to give a number of players some important minutes ahead of the World Cup. The entire front three were changed out, with Tobin Heath dropping back to left back in place of Crystal Dunn, who exited the match, while Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, and Carli Lloyd all entered the match up top. Allie Long and Lindsey Horan also started their shifts in the midfield in place of Rose Lavelle and Julie Ertz, the latter of which pushed back to replace Becky Sauerbrunn at center back.
The fresh legs of the front three reenergized the USWNT attack, and 10 minutes into her shift, it appeared as though Lloyd, another New Jersey native, had doubled the U.S.’s lead. Lloyd broke into space and went 1v1 with Santiago, knocking her shot past the keeper. However, to Lloyd’s and the crowd’s chagrin, her goal was called back as she was ruled to be offside.
Lloyd managed to strike again in the 76th minute, although this time she served up the assist for Pugh. LLoyd made a run down the near flank for Julie Ertz, who played the ball into space in anticipation of Lloyd’s run. The veteran midfielder then went nearly endline before sliding the ball over for Mallory Pugh instead of taking the shot, teasing Santiago to take to ground and leave the goal empty for Pugh. Although she had to go toe-to-toe with a Mexico defender to do so, Pugh was able to knock the ball home to double the U.S.’s lead.
Five minutes later, Lloyd and Pugh nearly connected for a third U.S. goal, with Lloyd, again on the near flank. This time Lloyd played a low cross inside the 18 that Pugh chased before turning to get her angle on goal, but the forward set her slow-rolling shot wide of the near post.
Press finished things off for the USWNT in the 88th minute, scoring the U.S.’s third unanswered goal off a Julie Ertz assist. After the ball was sent in from the far side, Ertz redirected it over to Press, who spun, dribbled around a defender like she was a cone, and then fired off a shot that flew past Santiago to put the home side up, 3-nil.
Following the win, the USWNT will now travel to England for a short camp before heading to France, host of the 2019 World Cup. The USWNT kick of their tournament against their Group F mates Thailand on June 11. They will then face Chile on June 16 before closing out group play against Sweden, who infamously ended the U.S.’s 2016 Olympics early, on June 20.
The 2019 World Cup kicks off in Paris on June 7 and concludes in Lyon on July 7.