Jillian Loyden

USWNT dominate but struggle to finish in comfortable 2-0 win vs China

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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.

US women make it 15 goals in two matches with 8-0 defeat of Russia

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After crushing Russia in last Saturday’s friendly in Florida by seven goals, how would the United States respond in the Georgia Dome on Wednesday against the same opponent? Perhaps more interesting, how would the Olympic host nation fare in the rematch?

Well… worse. It was hard to watch. The United States again poured forth goals on their Russian visitors, using two own goals and six different scorers to win 8-0 in Atlanta.

The Russians came out ready to withstand the massive American pressure and held off the hard-pressing Yanks in the first half with the exception of an own goal — Whitney Engen’s shot hit the post and then Elena Terekhova before entering the goal — but the second half was all U.S.A.

The second goal was also an OG as Megan Rapinoe’s cross went in off of Valentina Orlova’s knee.

Heather O’Reilly sent in a strong cross from the right flank that Rodriguez cheekily struck home in the 52nd minute to make it 3-0. It was a good-looking goal, and the floodgates appeared open. Wambach scored her 165th USWNT goal moments later from a position that appeared offsides from a few angles, but stood to make it 4-0. Rapinoe hit the cross on the goal that made it three goals in five minutes for the States.

Morgan Brian scored from about 25 yards out on a left-footed shot in the 65th minute for the States’ fifth goal and the second of her international career. Lauren Holiday later won a penalty kick that she converted in the 81st minute to make it 6-0.

O’Reilly made a backpost run to meet a flicked-on header from Christen Press to score the game’s seventh goal. Kristie Mewis sent the cross that started the play.

Press then moved freely across the box and hammered home the match’s eighth in the 86th minute, her third in the series.

Playing near her home town, Kelley O’Hara played her first match in eight months and lasted a planned half-hour. Goalkeeper Jillian Loyden came on for Hope Solo at the half.