The United States women’s soccer team is startlingly close to giving up its FIFA No.1 world ranking, but took a positive step by defeating China 2-0 on Sunday evening, with goals from Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.
The US has just a 24-point lead on Germany — 2,197 – 2,173 — after the Yanks bumbled their way to a seventh place finish in the 2014 Algarve Cup. It’s a testament to the dominant US that they were able to maintain the No. 1 spot after such a tournament.
China came into the two-game series — the two nations also square off at 11pm ET Thursday in California on the NBC Sports Network — as no shrinking violet, 16th in the world and boasters of victories over Norway and Denmark en route to fifth place in the Algarve Cup.
The story of the first half was largely about a lack of finish without Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach — the latter a second-half sub — as the US outshot China 15-0 but only put seven on target and one across the goal line.
Carli Lloyd sent a beautiful through-ball to Christen Press in the 26th minute. Press did well to step away from the keeper before firing the ball into the outside of the net.
A spate of strong box play in the 32nd minute ended when Lloyd booted an open look well over the bar. Moments later it was Press’ turn to fire wide after creating a brilliant chance, as it appeared a matter of moments before the Yanks would score (even if they had to march the ball into the goal sans shooting).
Lauren Holiday put the Americans on the board before halftime by collecting a Heather O’Reilly rebound and sending it home.
Jillian Loyden was called upon to make her first save in a big way as the cluck struck 48, getting a paw on a Chinese shot.
Substitute Rapinoe killed off any chances of a China rally when her free kick was inexplicably missed by several Chinese defenders in the 78th minute.
San Diego will be the venue for the rematch on Thursday, with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network at 11pm ET.