Haiti replaced Australia just a few days ago after the Australian women’s team, locked in a pay dispute with its national soccer federation, refused to travel for this game and another one Sunday in Birmingham. Haiti sent a very young team consisting mostly of players from its U-20 team that is preparing for the Caribbean Football Union playoffs that it will host next month. Three Caribbean teams will advance to the Concacaf U-20 women's championship to be played in December.
Here are three takeaways from the USA’s performance against a spirited but greatly overmatched opponent:
1. Can any team stop Carli Lloyd?
Near the end of the Fox Sports 1 telecast former national team head coach Tony DiCicco said simply, “Carli Lloyd is a force."
Lloyd, who bagged a hat trick against Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final and won the Golden Ball as World Cup MVP, hit three again to atone for some ragged USA play in the attacking third. Lloyd headed home a cross in the sixth minute, tucked away a penalty kick in the 37th, and used her head again in the 69th to knock in a corner kick. Twice her zeal to score got her in the way of teammate Alex Morgan and took away chances that might have been easier for Morgan to convert. One of Lloyd’s misses hit the woodwork.
She upped her take to 74 goals and trails former international Cindy Parlow (75) by just one goal on the all-time list. Parlow is sixth. Lloyd is also the team’s leading scorer this year with 13 goals and the hat trick was the fourth of her U.S. career.
2. Holiday will be hard to replace.
In the first half, the central midfield pairing of Tobin Heath and Morgan Brian misfired on several passes and lost possession in the middle third.
Heath has played mostly a wide midfield slot under head coach Jill Ellis and was given a chance in the middle alongside Brian, whose sharp, poised play at the Women’s World Cup meshed nicely with Holliday’s ability. The Americans scored three goals with Brian and Heath in the middle but their linking play was often disjointed and sporadic.
Holiday has announced her retirement from the national team, effective when the Victory Tour ends, and will play her final club game Oct. 1 for FC Kansas City in the NWSL final against Seattle. She entered the game at halftime and in addition to bringing stability to the central midfield, she sent over a corner kick that Lloyd headed into the net for the third goal of her hat trick. Equaling her influence in central midfield and prowess at set plays will be one of Ellis’ primary tasks going forward.
Ellis also moved centerback Becky Sauerbrunn into the midfield for the second half and though the Americans scored two more goals they floundered occasionally to string passes together as the Haitians kept up their spirit and energy. Ellis will look for a more polished performance when the teams meet again Sunday in Birmingham.
3. Dunn strikes early and late to strengthen her case.
The numbers game -- only 18 players can be named to the Olympic roster, a significant reduction from the 23-player WWC limit -- is working against several players, even though Holliday and two other veterans, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chapulny are retiring, and defender Christine Rampone and forward Abby Wambach are very much on the bubble.
The last player cut from the WWC roster, Crystal Dunn of the NWSL Washington Spirit, wowed the crowd of 34,538 while playing the full 90 minutes, during which he split time at right midfield and up top. Her right-wing cross floated perfectly for Lloyd to head home the opening goal in the sixth minute, and goal number two arrived in the 33rd minute when her low ball set up Christen Press to score.
Dunn, who hadn’t played for the USA since February and led the NWSL in scoring with 15 goals, wrapped up a superb performance in the 90th minute by leaping and twisting acrobatically in the air to head home an inswinging cross from Heather O’Reilly.
TRIVIA. The USA extended its
record unbeaten streak to 99 consecutive home games (87-0-12). The last loss at home came to Denmark on Nov. 6, 2004.
Sept. 17 in Detroit
USA 5 Haiti 0. Goals: Lloyd 6, 37, 69, Press 33, Dunn 90+3.
USA -- Solo (Harris, 46); O'Hara (Krieger, 46), Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Dunn, Brian (Holiday, 46), Heath (Rampone, 63), Press (O'Reilly, 63), Lloyd, Morgan (Wambach, 63)
Haiti -- Limage (Gabriel, 87); Beaubrun, Rateau, Boulos, Borgella, Jeudy (Chandler, 46), Mondesir, Louis (Limage, 82), Lafleur (Destinvil, 86), Gervil, Michel (Radamaker, 46)
Referee: Katja Koroleva (USA).