The United States women’s national team (USWNT) opened up its five-game World Cup Victory Tour with a 3-0 win over Ireland Saturday night. Fittingly, the win came in front of 37,040 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the same site as the USWNT’s historic 1999 World Cup win.
The scoreline may seem pretty modest compared to scorelines in the World Cup, but it was announced before the match that the U.S. would be without the services of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan — the World Cup Golden and Silver Boot recipients for most tournament goals — for the match due to injury.
Forward Mallory Pugh was slated to start up top for the USWNT but was a late scratch due to “a minor muscle issue” she felt during pregame warmups.
On the other side of the field, Ireland was without one of their most threatening players, midfielder Denise O’Sullivan, whose call up to national team duty was reportedly denied by her club, the North Carolina Courage, since the international friendly fell outside of a FIFA international window.
With Pugh out of the match for the USWNT, New Jersey native Tobin Heath started in her place and began the U.S.’s scoring on the night, putting away the first goal in the 16th minute.
Carli Lloyd started the move, as she moved centrally toward goal and slipped the ball to Sam Mewis before tumbling to the ground between two defenders. Mewis took a couple of touches before laying the ball off to Christen Press on the far side of the field.
Press then sent in a long, high cross, right in front of the goal, where Heath used her head to redirect the ball past Ireland goalkeeper Marie Hourihan.
The assist is Press’s team-leading eighth of the year, even more impressive considering she isn’t a regular starter on the national team.
Lindsey Horan, who saw less time than most expected during the 2019 World Cup, doubled the U.S.’s lead 15 minutes later, as Heath getting the hockey assist on the goal.
Heath made a run into the penalty area before heavy defensive pressure forced a ball back to Mewis, whose pass was dummied by Press and rolled to Horan, who easily converted from inside the six-yard box.
The third and final goal of the match came in the 41st minute, as the U.S. pushed into the final third looking for an an exclamation point on the opening half.
Kelley O’Hara, who was pushed up high in the attack, moved the ball toward the 18 and sent a perfectly-placed high pass to Lloyd, who was covered by two defenders in front of goal. Lloyd was able to out-jump both, and head the ball out of Hourihan’s outstretched arms to give the U.S. a 3-nil lead at the half. The goal was Lloyd’s 114th in her international career.
Head Coach Jill Ellis, who it was announced earlier this week would be departing the team in October, made three changes to start the second half: Jessica McDonald came on for Heath, Emily Sonnett for O’Hara, and Ashlyn Harris for starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who was untested throughout her shift.
Ellis used her last three subs before the 63rd minute, with Ali Krieger coming on for Carli Lloyd in a defender-for-attacker change, Allie Long for Mewis, and finally, Rose Lavelle for Christen Press.
Although the Victory Tour is more about getting as many players on the field as possible, Mewis’s substitution was the result of an injury sustained on the field.
In the 60th minute, Mewis took a blow to the face that resulted in a bloody nose —unfortunately, not her first on-field nosebleed while playing with USWNT. Mewis was attended to by the team trainers on the sidelines, where she seemed to be joking around despite the injury.
In the second half, the vast majority of play took place in Ireland’s half, as it did in the first 45, but the rotation of players made for a less potent USWNT, and no one could capitalize on the attacking opportunities created.
In all, the U.S. outshot Ireland, 29-2, and put nine shots on goal, forcing Hourihan to make six saves on the night.
Goalkeepers Naeher and Harris shared the clean sheet although Ireland got off only two shots all night, neither on target.
The USWNT players will report back to their NWSL clubs until the Victory Tour resumes on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where the reigning World Cup champions will take on Portugal.