Exactly one month before the USA faces Mexico in the first game of its qualifying campaign for the 2019 Women's World Cup, Coach Jill Ellis' team cruised to a 4-0 win over Chile.
1. Carli Lloyd remains a key weapon for USA
Mallory Pugh, who scored the USA's opening goal against Chile on Tuesday, was 8 years old when Carli Lloyd scored her first goal for the USA in 2006. Lloyd, who turned 36 in July, came on as a halftime sub for Pugh and scored with her first touch, a diving header that met Tobin Heath's free-kick cross. Lloyd also scored the USA's final goal, in stoppage time, with sharp low strike after zig-zagging past a befuddled Chilean defender.
Lloyd, who famously scored a hat trick in the USA's 5-2 win over Japan in the 2015 World Cup final, has come off the bench in all but three of her 15 appearances for the USA in 2018. She was also the USA's most dangerous attacker after coming on at halftime in last Friday's 3-0 win over Chile -- ensuring that we'll continue to see more of the 2015 and 2016 FIFA World Player of the Year.
2. Pugh fares best of the new starters
Coach Jill Ellis made six changes to the starting lineup from last Friday's 3-0 win over Chile in Southern California, bringing in goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, outside backs Kelly O’Hara and Casey Short, central defender Abby Dahlkemper, midfielder McCall Zerboni, and forward Pugh.
The 20-year-old Pugh scored her 12th U.S. goal with her knee from close-range after goalkeeper Christiane Endler saved Alex Morgan's penalty kick. Heath delivered the rebound to Pugh, who had been fouled on the PK call. Her appearance off the bench on Friday had marked her first U.S. game since April because of a knee injury -- and she assisted in the 3-0 win.
The Chileans weren't good enough to give Harris, who had only one easy save to make, a chance to impress. Dahlkemper played well but Ellis is sure to bank on the Becky Sauerbrunn-Tierna Davidson central defensive partnership. (Davidson, who scored her first goal on Friday, assisted on Heath's goal on Tuesday.)
Sadly for Zerboni, she fell badly after getting fouled and left injured in the fifth minute -- to be replaced by Morgan Brian. Dunn replaced Kelly O’Hara, who because of injury was making her first appearance since March, in the 31st minute. Dunn played dynamically in the midfield -- assisted on Lloyd's second goal -- but is likely to return to outside back.
3. Rose Lavelle should strive for Heath-like consistency and confidence
The 23-year-old Rose Lavelle and 30-year-old Heath provide some of the most entertaining, skillful and effective play for the USA. Heath finished the game with a goal and two assists -- and should have had three assists but Lavelle failed to beat Endler one-on-one after Heath's superb setup with a delicate chip.
U.S. midfield dominance was thanks much to Lavelle, so rarely troubled by a tackle. But a bit too often, after so secure on the ball, she rushes and mis-hits the pass. Lavelle could also be bolder about going to goal.
How Lavelle progresses will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the USA's 2019 World Cup quest.
TRIVIA: Lloyd's goals were her 101st and 102nd tonight in her 259th U.S. appearance.
Sept. 4 in San Jose, Calif.
USA 4 Chile 0. Goals: Pugh 34, Heath 38, Lloyd 47, 93+.
USA -- Harris, O'Hara (Dunn, 31), Dahlkemper, Davidson, Short, Lavelle (Horan, 61), Ertz (Sauerbrunn, 74), Zerboni (Brian, 5), Pugh (Lloyd, 46), Morgan, Heath (Rodriguez, 61).
Chile -- Endler; R.Soto (Galaz, 60), Guerrero, Lara (Gutierrez, 71), C.Soto, Araya (Urrutia, 89), Aedo, Lopez (Grez, 79), Santibáñez (Zamora, 46), Leyton, 1Saez
Referee: Christina Unkel (USA)/Karen Abt (USA)
Stats Summary: USA / Chile
Shots: 24 / 4
Shots on Goal: 12 / 1
Saves: 1 / 8
Corner Kicks: 6 / 0
Fouls: 8 / 9
Offside: 5 / 2