Three takeaways from USA-New Zealand

A record crowd of 35,817 fans at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, watched the USA beat New Zealand, 4-0, in its final international friendly before Coach Jill Ellis names her squad for the Women's World Cup. It was total domination from beginning to end for the Americans, but they needed three goals in four minutes late in the game to pull away from the outmatched Football Ferns.

1. USA has scoring weapons at all positions.

The first three goals came from defenders: Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Chalupny, a second-half sub for Klingenberg at left back, and Julie Johnston.

For Johnston, who had the opening goal against France in the Algarve Cup final, it was the second game in a row she has scored on a header, while Klingenberg, Chalupny and Morgan Brian, who scored the fourth goal, became the seventh, eighth and ninth different players to score for the USA in seven games in 2015.

The diminutive Klingenberg's opening goal on a volley from distance was reminiscent of the goal she scored against Haiti: also a right-footed blast on the volley from distance.

Ellis said the scoring threats out of the back could be critical at the Women's World Cup.

"They're going to come into play," she said. "I know they will. We talk a lot about scoring in transition, scoring off set pieces, scoring in the run of play, and I think those set piece goals were a good takeaway. Our defenders are very good in the air, so on a set piece, that should be one of their strengths and service comes into play."

2. U.S. finishing from its big guns must improve.

Frankly, the USA needed the scoring out of the back because the frontline had an off day. The USA had an 18-2 edge in shots, but had only one goal to show for its efforts until the last quarter of an hour.

Amy Rodriguez
twice hit the woodwork, while Christen Press skied an open shot over the goal early in the game and had two shots stopped by New Zealand keeper Erin Nayler.

Conspicuously silent was Alex Morgan, who struggled in the first half and missed a couple of opportunities after the break.

3. Rapinoe and Rodriguez settle into lineup.

Yes, the finishing was poor against a team that will struggle to make it out of group play in Canada, but on the positive side, the USA was creating chances and looked comfortable in attack for the first time this year.

That was likely due to the availability of Ellis' first-choice front six for the first time this season. Megan Rapinoe, who had been injured earlier in the year, started at left wing opposite Press and teamed up with Klingenberg to create all kinds of chances down the left wing.

Like in the Algarve Cup final, Rodriguez was Ellis' choice, ahead of Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach, to start alongside Morgan, and her movement in and around the penalty area is a perfect complement to the lurking Morgan.

TRIVIA. Since losing to France, 2-0, to open the 2015 campaign, the USA has now gone 5-0-1 and conceded just one goal in the six games.

April 4 in St. Louis
USA 4 New Zealand 0. Klingenberg 14, Chalupny 76, Johnston 78, Brian 81.
USA -- Solo; Krieger (O'Hara, 83), Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg (Chalupny, 57); Press (Heath, 56), Holiday, Lloyd, Rapinoe (Brian, 79); Rodriguez (Leroux, 57), Morgan (Wambach, 73).
New Zealand -- Nayler; Erceg, Stott, Duncan, Percival; Riley, Longo, Bowen (Yallop, 85); Hearn, Gregorius (Pereira, 65), Wilkinson (White, 74).
Att.: 35,817.
7 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-New Zealand".
  1. R2 Dad, April 5, 2015 at 3:05 p.m.

    5-0-1 sounds impressive, but top teams only compare themselves to other top teams. Against the other top 10 in 2015 the US has gone 3-2-1 with a goal differential of +1--not exactly a steamroller. Plus, France had their B team at that second match we won. Supposedly our "big guns" are the best strike force in the world. If they're misfiring because they're out of season, these things happen. But we should have our May friendlies against our toughest opponents, not teams ranked 31st, 25th and 18th. That's a schedule meant to bolster support not challenge our team. Is Jill so insecure she feels the need to whoop on lesser teams as our warmup to the world cup?

  2. James Froehlich, April 5, 2015 at 11:49 p.m.

    Watched the game in St. Louis. Several excellent technical players on this team, particularly the midfield and especially Rapinoe. However as a team, the offense is extremely mechanical. John Madden would have a ball describing their "plays". As other countries with deeper soccer cultures develop their women's programs, our early lead from promoting women's sports will certainly disappear. Just as in the men's side, the US coaching fraternity/sorority is still unable to promote, develop, or identify creativity!!
    As a footnote, it would also be interesting to know what the average family income was for the women's team???

  3. Allan Lindh, April 6, 2015 at 3:26 p.m.

    Don't agree James, Press is the most creative player we've had in years. Can make a run from anywhere, and our best withdrawn striker, given how quick and intelligent she is on ball. And A-Rob has definitely stepped her game up a notch.

  4. Bruce Moorhead, April 6, 2015 at 4:45 p.m.

    Agree Allan, A-Rod seems to be making better decisions since returning from her pregnancy. She was unlucky not to score. Certainly Alex Morgan was off for the day. Christen Press is an exciting creative presence, but the team is especially better with Rapinoe in the starting line-up. I think James is being overly pessimistic. All women's teams are improving technically, including the U.S.

  5. James Froehlich, April 6, 2015 at 6:08 p.m.

    I'm afraid you are missing the point. I agree that the team has players with individual technical skills. However, the team's play is mechanical and predictable as US teams, men's and women's, have been historically. I am definitely concerned about their performance this summer.

  6. Carl Hudson, April 6, 2015 at 6:11 p.m.

    How can Morgan have a good day when nobody passes her the ball?

    And Press couldn't handle a cheeseburger.

  7. Chris J, April 7, 2015 at 3:15 p.m.

    I think both James and Allan are right. Press might be the most creative player in awhile, but the problem is that it's an easy statement to make given the complete lack of creativity and world class technical skill within the US Women's program top to bottom. These girls don't handle tight spaces well, have limited ability to be successful when forced to actually play soccer. Goals are almost exclusively long balls in or through to try and capitalize on physical/mental attributes of the typical US player. Unless you're a 8-11 yr old soccer player with stars in her eyes or the parent of one, it's not a very entertaining way to spend 90 minutes or a couple hundred bucks. Sure winning will help keep some audiences, but that is going to change as the rest of the world models their women's programs after their men's.

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