SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) As the season winds down, coach Jill Ellis wants the Americans winging it and making adjustments on the fly to keep pressure on opponents from all angles and every spot on the field.
That task came fairly easily against Romania.
Christen Press had her fourth career hat trick by the 38th minute, Alex Morgan added two goals and the U.S. women’s national team whipped up on the Romanians 8-1 Thursday night.
“I want a team to feel like they can’t breathe against us,” Ellis said. “That’s kind of where we want to take this team to in terms of our defensive presence and that kind of mentality. … Both sides of the ball that’s what we want, and they’re not going to get a break.”
Press scored the first goal of the match in the 8th minute, then Tobin Heath found the net 2 minutes later for the first of her two goals on an assist by Press, who scored again in the 35th and 38th minutes.
With 11 goals this season, the former star at nearby Stanford reached double digits for the third straight year and became the fourth U.S. player to do so in 2016.
“In order to play this style, you have to be physically superior than the other team,” Press said. “So that’s kind of like our baseline. Big engine, super aggressive, always on our toes, always on our front foot and then at the same time when you get the ball you have to be calm, you have to be composed. So it’s that switching back and forth I think makes the best team in the world, and that’s what we’re aiming to be.”
Morgan scored in the 52nd and 75th minutes but missed a penalty kick in the 64th after Ellis inserted five substitutes to start the second half at Avaya Stadium, which drew 16,425 fans.
Morgan Brian made a diving header from just inside the 8-yard box off a free kick by Andi Sullivan following a yellow card, her first goal of the year.
Megan Rapinoe didn’t play, nor was she on the field during the national anthem to kneel on the grass as has been her routine, inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFL preseason about 10 minutes away. Rapinoe did not speak to reporters after the game.
Carli Lloyd was away on her honeymoon.
Romania’s Laura Rus scored a 31st-minute goal into an empty net in the first of two exhibition matches against the Romanians to finish the 2016 season. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris came way out of the box on the play.
The Americans are playing without goalie Hope Solo, suspended for six months in September and her contract with U.S. Soccer terminated in the wake of a disappointing exit from the Rio Olympic Games during which she called Sweden a “bunch of cowards” following a quarterfinal loss on penalty kicks.
“It’s too early to expect perfection,” Ellis said of her goalies. “Does one mistake rule her out? Of course not.”
The teams play again Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson.
Four players from the 2015 World Cup champions and this past summer’s Rio Olympics rejoined the U.S. squad.