Two things came back to the forefront in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2-0, Saturday victory over China: the team’s level of competition and their tendency to start slow in these home “series”.
Those qualities were missing from the team’s performance last Wendnesday against Ireland, the U.S. beating Ireland 5-0 in the first of a two-game set. Last Saturday in Glendale, the U.S. followed that performance with a 2-0 victory at Phoenix Stadium.
Yesterday, it took a half for the States to warm up, but with Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath coming off the bench, the U.S. found their stride in the second half. Both registered assists on goals from Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux, the 2-0 final giving the team a comfortable win.
The final score was closer than expected against a team that’s failed to have a part in the last two major competitions, but playing their 30th game of the season, it’s understandable that the team’s exhibiting a lack of urgency. The Fan Celebration Tour’s in its eighth of ten matches, and although a crowd of 17,321 at Ford Field took in the show, the match still had an exhibition’s air to it.
China, though they have slid in recent years, is still a pronounced upgrade from Ireland. The Irish are ranked 34th in the world and are a step away from being competitive to qualify for major tournaments. Although the Chinese have did not qualify for the last World Cup (or this summer Olympics), that’s as much a testament to Asia’s depth as China’s quality.
Beyond the step up in competition, the match was noteworthy for two reasons. Amy Rodriguez, taking Morgan’s place in the starting lineup, got her 100th career cap, becoming the 28th player in national team history to reach the mark. She wore the armband before coming off for Heath in the 48th minute.
This was also the first match of new coach Tom Sermanni’s three-match evaluation period. He’ll formerly inherit the team next month, and if there’s anything to loosely interpret from how the team used their fullbacks (starting Amy LePeilbet and Kelley O’Hara, bringing on Heather Mitts and Becky Sauerbrunn), the evaluations may start at the back.
Next up, the U.S. and China hit BBVA Compass Stadium Wednesday night for a game that’s expected to draw a crowd. With one game in Florida to follow, the U.S. is finally approaching the end of their long season.