Commentary

Scotland-USA Women's International Friendly: Pugh and Morgan combine for sweet gamewinner

SCOTLAND-USA EXPRESS:
Nov. 13 in Paisley
Scotland 0 USA 1. Goal: Morgan 39.
Att.: 3,790.

The USA finished 2018 undefeated, with an 18-0-2 record, thanks to a 1-0 win at Scotland on Tuesday. The narrow win was the USA's second of a two-game Europe tour -- after it qualified for the 2019 World Cup by winning last month's Concacaf Championship -- that started with Thursday's 1-0 win over Portugal. Next up is a Jan. 19 friendly in France against the host of next summer's World Cup.

1. Alex Morgan caps terrific year with golazo.

In the 39th minute, Alex Morgan without breaking stride, met a cross from Mallory Pugh and volleyed home the gamewinner from seven yards. It was Morgan's 18th goal of the year, in 18 appearances, and 98th of her career. The 29-year-old scored only seven goals in an injury-plagued 2017 season, after 17 goals in 21 games in 2016. Her record year came in 2012, when she struck 28 times in 31 games.

Morgan's goals in 2018 included seven in five World Cup qualifiers, including one in the 2-0 win over Canada in the Concacaf Championship final. She also scored against Brazil. Japan, China, Mexico (four in two games) and Denmark.

2. The shutout streak continues.

The USA has now gone 884 minutes without conceding a goal -- not since a 4-1 win over Brazil in August. Against the Scots, University of North Carolina outside back Emily Fox earned her second cap after debuting against Portugal while Crystal Dunn was moved into midfield. Ashlyn Harris got a rare start in goal in place of Alyssa Naeher, behind central defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn. Emily Sonnett started at right back. Harris was called on to make two routine saves, and faltered only once, when she allowed a low corner kick to roll across the goalmouth, requiring a goal-line clearance by Morgan.

It looked as if the USA would cruise to an easy win after the Morgan goal, but the Scots began to attack with more vigor when Lana Clelland, the leading scorer in Italy's Serie A, came on in the 75th minute. Her point-blank opportunity was disrupted just in time by Julie Ertz. But it should not have been such a nail-biter in the final minutes.

3. Carli Lloyd's start marred by PK miss.

Pugh, starting her second straight game on the right wing after serving as a sub in qualifying, created and had the first good U.S. chance in the 15th minute. She carried the ball down field, passed to Morgan, but struck wide when Morgan returned the ball at the penalty spot. Pugh also coughed up the ball in the 31st minute deep in her own half, leading to Scottish shot that went just high.

But Pugh remained a threat and was fouled for a penalty kick in the 63nd minute. Carli Lloyd stepped up in hopes of scoring her 106th U.S. goal -- but banged it off the crossbar.

At the age of 36, Lloyd, the 2015 World Cup hero, was making only her fourth start of the year -- she came off the bench 14 times. She'll likely return to a role as late sub.

Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Morgan Brian did not travel to Europe. Lindsey Horan left the team after the Portugal game. And Megan Rapinoe remained on the bench in Scotland.

TRIVIA: Scotland qualified for the Women's World Cup for the first time after edging out Switzerland. The Scots were the 11th 2019 World Cup qualifier the USA faced in 2018.

Nov. 13 in Paisley
Scotland 0 USA 1. Goal: Morgan 39.
Scotland -- Alexander (Lynn, 46); Corsie, Beattie, Lauder (Brown, 46), Arthur (Smith, 46), Love (Murray, 66), Weir, Emslie, Brown (Arnot, 84), Cuthbert, Ross (Clelland, 75).
USA -- Harris; Sonnett (McDonald, 68), Dahlkemper, Sauerbrunn, Fox (Colaprico, 76); Ertz, Lavelle, Dunn; Pugh, Lloyd (Mewis, 93+), Morgan (Long, 88).
Yellow Cards: USA -- Sonnett 36.
Referee: Amy Fearn (England)
Att.: 3,790

Stats:
Scotland/USA
Shots: 8/10
Shots on Goal: 2/3
Saves: 2/2
Corner Kicks: 6/5
Fouls: 10/7
Offside: 1/2

3 comments about "Scotland-USA Women's International Friendly: Pugh and Morgan combine for sweet gamewinner".
  1. R2 Dad, November 14, 2018 at 11:35 a.m.

    Is Scotland really getting better? i wasn't able to see the match. We've previously dominated them....

  2. R2 Dad, November 15, 2018 at 12:58 p.m.

    Finally got watch the match, and agree with Mike's observations. I thought we played well enough to win, could have scored more had our finishing been better. I think Carli's done, sadly. She was  a step slow, her passes weren't crisp, she missed the PK--all the signs are there of a player not getting sharper. I like Pugh on the right and Rapinoe on the left.
    Scotland HAS made big improvements. Keeper had big moments, their back line is good under pressure, can switch play well to relieve pressure. Their midfield needs more skill on the ball to get into dangerous positions more often, but they are building confidence and building from the back--just need a couple more pieces to become a greater scoring threat.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, November 16, 2018 at 12:08 a.m.

    I didn't watch the match, but wanted to point out that match performance is not as much an indicator as what goes on in training. Lloyd played 90+ minutes before being subbed out.

    Lloyd is a ferocious trainer. She literally trains harder and longer than her team mates. In the long term, it simply is not sustainable. Time catches up with us all. It is the one opponent no one beats. Her current training regimen is a much better indicator of her longevity. I expect it to start slipping before her match performance does.

    Whatever happens, I suspect that she will not retire until after this cycle ends.

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