When China got a mildly surprising draw against Sweden on Wednesday it was easy to entertain dusty memories and think Friday’s match posed an unexpected hazard, but with posting the most lopsided result of this year’s Algarve Cup (one that was matched hours later by Sweden against Iceland), the U.S. remained perfect, unblemished, and at the top of Group B with their 5-0 win over the Roses.
Sydney Leroux made sure the U.S. didn’t endure a second-straight scoreless first half, her 40-plus yard sprint after forcing a turnover culminating with the 16th goal of the 22-year-old’s national team career. Ali Krieger doubled the lead in the 32nd minute when a long run onto an Alex Morgan cross ended with a right-footed finish and her first international goal.
Defender Whitney Engen also scored her first career goal, the third goal of a second half that included a fine finish from Christen Press and a somewhat dubiously given goal for Megan Rapinoe. It’s not that Rapinoe’s 46th minute goal shouldn’t have counted; rather, it’s unclear how the game’s third score could have possibly been awarded to the Lyon midfielder.
All of which is inconsequential. After two of their four matches in Portugal, the U.S. has two wins, eight goals, and have yet to concede despite starting a drastically changed team against China. Nicole Barnhart got the start in goal. Natural attacker Kristie Mewis started at left back, flanking a central defense pairing of Engen and Becky Sauerbrunn. Yael Averbuch started in midfield, while 18-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward Lindsey Horan came off the bench to get her first national team cap.
Tobin Heath and Rapinoe, late arrivals to camp as they attended club duties in France, were back in Tom Sermanni’s starting XI, but Abby Wambach, four goals shy of Mia Hamm’s all-time scoring record, didn’t play. Neither did Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Buehler, Carli Loyd or Shannon Boxx. Playing the second of what will be four games in eight days, Sermanni changed 10 spots in his starting XI, with only Morgan getting consecutive starts.
Next up for the States is a highly anticipated meeting with Pia Sundhage. The former U.S. head coach will hope Sweden can derail what’s looking like an inevitable meeting between the U.S. and Germany in Wednesday’s final. Should Sweden pull off the upset on Monday, they would break up the anticipated meeting between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams.