USWNT Dominate New Zealand 4-0


Now that is more like it!

In front of a capacity crowd in St. Louis today, the USWNT put on perhaps their best performance of the lead up to the World Cup by defeating New Zealand 4-0. It was by far the best Jill Ellis’ squad has looked in a very long time. Things were so good for the US ladies that St. Louis native Lori Chalupny came on as a substitute in the final minutes of the game and popped in a goal.

Although the entire side played terrific, it was the defensive corps that was the top performing unit as three of the four U.S. goals came from defenders, including Chalupny, Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston.

So how good did today’s performance feel? “It was friggin’ awesome,’’ said the exuberant Klingenberg, who then quickly credited the midfielders and strikers for their hard work, just to make sure not too much praise would be heaped on the U.S. defenders at the expense of the offense.

“First and foremost, we kept that zero on the scoreboard. That was the most important thing to keep us in the game and then on top of it to be able to score in front of all these fans and in this incredible environment, it was a really, really special day,’’ Klingenberg said. As Klingenberg said, playing in front of a huge, excited audience in one of the most storied stadiums in the country.

Jill Ellis looked the most relaxed she has since taking over the reigns one year ago. Despite loads of criticism (including myself), Ellis may have the team exactly where everyone expects them to be: Peaking just in time for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

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While the first World Cup match is just over two months away, Ellis may have found the key to success, placing more emphasis on attacking in the final third of the field. “I think it’s a massive add-on,’’ Ellis said about having her defenders being such viable options for goal scoring. “I’m excited because who do you focus on coming in?” There was brief discussion after the U.S. victory over whether New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Naylor might have deserved to be the player of the game. The U.S. attack kept the New Zealand defense on their toes all afternoon in front of a sun-drenched crowd, only to see a 1-0 U.S. lead balloon to the 4-0 victory in the span of five minutes in the closing minutes of the match.

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  • If only the U.S. had been a bit more lucky earlier in the match on some of the shots that hit the goalpost or sailed just wide of the net, the score could have been easily even more lopsided.

    Still, the victory was secured early in the first half, when it was clear the U.S. was going to control the tempo and pace of the game. The U.S. jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute when defender Meghan Klingenberg drilled a 14-footer into the back of the net after taking a cross from Ali Krieger.

    he U.S. is now 5-1-1 and seems a relieved distance from the shaky start to 2015, when they dropped a friendly against No. 3-ranked France and then defeated England. The momentum the team gained from their Algarve Cup tournament championship in March was clearly demonstrated in the lineup and its production on the field against New Zealand.

    Starting against New Zealand is now a back line that appears to be the starters for the World Cup: Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Krieger and Klingenberg. The unit is clearly firing on all cylinders, not just defending their own goal but in bolstering the U.S. midfield and attack by going end to end.

    Klingenberg in particular seems to almost always be in the right place at the right time, which is really saying something given that under Ellis’ formation requirements, the defensive backs on the wings are expected to cover a lot of ground.This was Klingenberg’s first goal of 2015 and second career strike for the U.S. women’s national team. Her previous goal was an almost exact replica against Haiti on Oct. 8, 2014 in group play of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

    One highlight of the day was the start by Megan Rapinoe, who earned her 100th career cap. The midfielder had not started since the second game of group play of the Algarve Cup, and had not seen much more time in Portugal but she was fresh and aggressive against New Zealand.

    Rapinoe led an attack that had the U.S. on the verge of several other scoring changes. In the 38th minute, Rapinoe’s beautiful cross to Amy Rodriguez, who gave it a great shot but just not quite enough luck: The ball hit the post to the great groan of the Busch Stadium crowd.

    Rapinoe will be honored for her 100th cap at the next U.S. friendly against Ireland on May 10 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. By then, the U.S. roster will be down to 23 players and set for the World Cup. Ellis will make the announcement about the two cuts from the current 25-player roster on April 15.

    As it stands, based on playing time and who has dressed for the U.S. team’s games so far this season, the pool of candidates who may not make the World Cup roster has dwindled down to three players: defenders Rachel Van Hollebeke and Crystal Dunn and midfielder Shannon Boxx, though Ellis has said if Boxx, like veteran Christie Rampone, can get fit and some playing time, she would appreciate having that kind of experience available during the World Cup.


    USA: Solo, Krieger (O’Hara 83′), Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg (Chalupny 57′), Press (Heath 56′), Holiday, Lloyd, Rapinoe (Brian 79′), Rodriguez (Leroux 57′), Morgan (Wambach 73′)

    Goals: Klingenberg (14′), Chalupny (76′), Johnston (78′), Brian (81′)