PHILADELPHIA – Keeping with the theme, the United States women’s national team was victorious on Thursday night in the first match of the second leg in its World Cup Victory Tour. Playing to a record friendly crowd of 49,504 at Lincoln Financial Field, the champions from France brushed aside Portugal, 4-0.
The match was a souvenir of sorts for a couple players in particular. Midfield driving force Julie Ertz played with an unmistakable chip on her shoulder, running around on the same field as her husband, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. After a commanding 90 minutes, Julie walked to the mixed zone after the match with a bouquet of roses that Zach had left in his locker, which was hers for the night.
“I don’t know if I should call it his locker or ours,” Julie, who referred to Philadelphia as “one of the greatest sports cities of all time,” said, grinning ear to ear.
If there were any doubts about the straightforwardness of the result, Tobin Heath’s sliding sitter in the fourth minute erased them. Morgan Brian then scored a casual header in the 18th minute, after she was unmarked on a corner kick swung in from Christen Press, and the U.S.’s comfort level only grew.
Carli Lloyd could have had a goal in the first half, with her best chance coming in the 38th minute when a heavy first touch took away a clear-cut opportunity to square a pass or shoot. She was able to still slip a shot through the legs of Portugal goalkeeper Patricia Morais, but the dribbling ball was eventually, frantically, cleared away.
With the U.S. cruising, outgoing head coach Jill Ellis made three changes to the team at halftime. The 37-year-old Lloyd, a native of Delran, N.J., eager for a goal, was kept in.
“I don’t need the rest,” Lloyd later said through laughter. “I think there was probably talk on other players part but, I was just – if she told me to keep going, I’m going to keep going.”
After agonizingly missing the mark in a big occasion for Sky Blue, Lloyd got her elusive token goal in the 52nd minute, off a long throw-in from Jessica McDonald and physical flick-on from Lindsey Horan. Her reaction was typical for a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan, as she jogged to the corner doing the “Fly Eagles Fly” celebration.
Thirty minutes later, Allie Long scored the fourth and final goal and repeated the celebration; the U.S. soaring to a smooth – and, for some, sentimental – friendly win.
All told, including competitive matches, there had only been eight larger crowds to watch the U.S. Women on American soil: six in the combined 1991 and 1999 World Cups, two in the 1996 Olympics. The champions will continue the tour and face Portugal again on Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minn.