While the U.S. men are currently preparing for their World Cup game against Ghana tomorrow, the women are continuing their lineup of international friendlies that precedes the 2015 Women’s World Cup qualifiers. The U.S. Women’s National Team played their first of two international friendly matches against France yesterday, after heavy rain and lightning at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida delayed the start of the game. The win may not have been as pretty as people would have liked, however there was at least one monumental achievement for the U.S. team: Hope Solo went in the record books for most shutouts, tying Briana Scurry for first with 71. The U.S. women are set to play in the 2015 World Cup qualifiers as CONCACAF hosts this October.
The rainy conditions may have had a negative effect on the quality of play, but reports from both sides are less than rewarding to both teams’ defensive presence during last night’s game. Sydney Leroux was able to capitalize for the U.S. in the 21st minute after taking advantage of some “underwhelming” French defense. Leroux received a beautiful chip from Christen Press, and after a botched attempt to clear the ball by one French defender, Leroux megged the remaining defender before finding the back of the net. Leroux currently leads the squad in goals scored this year, having net a total of 6 since games began this January.
Ball possession was only slightly in the U.S. team’s favor, however France can boast of higher caliber chances up top after the fact. Eugenie Le Sommer and Louisa Necib both wasted golden opportunities by failing to get the ball on frame. While both teams each had 6 shots on goal, France had more quality combinations in the attacking third.
France was also able to shake things up on the counter attack, exposing weaknesses in the rusty U.S. defense. After the first half, both teams struggled to maintain possession of the ball. That said, as France picked up the pace and applied more pressure on the U.S. defense toward the end of the second half, the defense performed solid and allowed for Hope Solo to snag her moment in the record books. The goalkeeper is now tied with legend Briana Scurry for most shutouts in history, boasting of 71 overall.
Alex Morgan saw some playing time in the second half, coming in for an injured Tobin Heath. Morgan provided some necessary attacking pressure for the U.S., but neither team was able to create significant scoring opportunities during the second half. Even so, U.S. coach Jill Ellis can come away from the match with positive feelings. The importance of taking advantage of early scoring opportunities was epitomized by last night’s game. Weather conditions and injured star players could have put a dampener on the team’s level of play, however the U.S. women were able to walk away with the win. This win puts U.S. women one game closer to the World Cup qualifiers this fall.
Though the U.S. performance was a bit sloppy, it should not be taken too seriously. Playing a game immediately following a thunderstorm is hardly a walk in the park. Weather permitting, the U.S. will meet the French on the pitch again next Thursday, June 19, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. There are still some wrinkles to iron out, however the U.S. women are more than up to the task as CONCACAF’s 2014 Women’s Championship is set to begin this fall. The top three teams will win admission to the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson