Forward Christen Press put on a sparkling second half show at the Alamodome, scoring three goals in the space of 23 minutes as the U.S. Women’s National Team ran over Trinidad & Tobago in a lopsided 6-0 romp Thursday night. It was the third hat trick in international play for the 26-year-old Press, who has 28 total goals in only three years on the senior team.
Trinidad & Tobago, a team with an unbroken record of losing to the U.S. side, was outmatched at every position and never threatened. The U.S. had 17 shots on goal against one for Trinidad & Tobago. An equally telling stat: 10 corner kicks for the U.S. women, none for their opponent.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had so little to do at her end of the pitch she should have been counted as one of the spectators. Half of the Trinidad & Tobago players’ touches led to balls sent out of play in a futile effort to slow down the U.S. women. Tripping the U.S. women didn’t work well, either, leading to two yellow cards in the first half.
The Trinidad & Tobago goalie Kimika Forbes came out to contest a high ball against Alex Morgan in the 20th minute, and the two collided violently with Forbes getting the worst of it. It appeared to some to be a U.S. foul but the referee saw it the other way. Carli Lloyd put away the penalty kick in the 22nd minute for the first score of the match and her ninth goal of the Victory Tour.
A header into the net by Morgan was called offside a few minutes later, and the score stood at 1-0 halftime, despite total U.S. dominance of the ball with 16 shots taken, seven of them on goal. Their opponents shot once.
U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis started substituting out veterans in the second half, and after a few minutes of ragged play, the pace picked up with the smaller Trinidad & Tobago team and its thin bench unable to keep up. With each U.S. goal, their players seemed to show less ambition.
Morgan finally got her goal in the 52nd minute on an assist from 21-year-old Lindsey Horan, who would score her own first international goal in the 92 minute as the game clock ticked down.
Press scored the first of her three goals one minute after coming in as a substitute for Morgan in the 60th minute, with an assist from Lloyd. Less than 15 minutes later in the 75th minute Press scored a second time, this time with Ali Krieger serving up the ball.
USA 4, Trinidad & Tobago 0.
Chants of “Abby, Abby, Abby” started to build as fans called for Ellis to put in Abby Wambach, the greatest player in U.S. soccer history with 184 goals. Television cameras showed one woman holding a “We Love You, Abby” sign and another that said, “Thanks for everything, Abby.”
Ellis sent in the 35-year-old Wambach in the 76th minute. Wambach, who is retiring after the Victory Tour, acknowledged the standing ovation with a smile and a wave. She had a few rusty touches in her first minutes on the field and a good chance at a header later, but this was Press’ time. In the 84th minute Horan set her up again and Press scored her third goal.
All three goals were impressive, and the last one made it 5-0. With seconds left in two minutes of stoppage time, Horan, who had missed a couple of other close chances, took a beautiful pass from Stephanie McCaffrey and found the net with her kick.
Final score: USA 6, Trinidad & Tobago 0.
Unfortunately, only 10,690 fans were on hand to watch the 2015 World Cup champions as they near the end of a 10-city, nine-game Victory Tour. Much larger crowds are expected for the team’s two-game series versus China. The first match will be played Dec. 13 at the University of Arizona in Phoenix, and the second Dec. 16 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
The U.S. Women’s National Team, winners of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Edmonton, Canada on July 5, deserved so much more from San Antonio.
The team’s third World Cup championship drew a U.S. television audience of more than 25 million people, the most widely viewed soccer match in U.S. television history. The U.S. women were ruthless in a 5-2 victory over Japan. Afterwards, there was a ticker-tape parade in New York and a visit to the White House to meet President Obama.
The U.S. women’s team drew 19,109 when it beat Australia, 4-0, at the Alamodome in October 2013. Why didn’t more fans come Thursday night? Surely, San Antonio’s soccer base was part of that 25 million who watched the World Cup final in Canada. Trinidad and Tobago was a mismatch, no doubt, but how often does the city get to host the world’s best team?
A record Alamodome crowd (for soccer) of 64,369 fans turned out for the April 15 friendly between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Mexico, a match won by the U.S. 2-0. The majority of fans in attendance that evening wore red, green and white, the national colors of Mexico. The U.S.-Mexico rivalry is an intense one.
Thursday’s match was the seventh in the Victory Tour, but it also was a chance for the next generation of players to show Ellis they belong on the next World Cup team. While most of the matches have been blowouts, the matches with China should prove to be more of a challenge and help the team get ready for the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, which will be played in Houston and Dalla,s February 10-21.
Up front, Press and Morgan are 26, Sydney Leroux is 25, and Stephanie McCaffrey is 22. Midfielder Crystal Dunn, who played the entire match, most of it attacking, is 23. Midfielder Morgan Brian is 22, and Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara are both 27. Defenders Julie Johnston, who also played the whole match, and Jaelene Hinkle are 23. Emily Sonnett is 22. Meghan Klingenberg is 27.
It’s a team that should be favored to defend its World Cup title four years from now in France.
The USA has won six matches and played to a 1-1 draw against Brazil on the Victory Tour. Last week’s scheduled first match against Trinidad & Tobago in Hawaii was canceled when the U.S. team refused to play on the badly worn artificial turf there. Substandard playing conditions remain a vexing issue in an era when men’s and women’s professional sports are supposed to be staged under equitable conditions.
When the U.S. Men’s National Team played Mexico here in April, the Alamodome’s artificial surface was covered with natural grass, and although it was in poor condition for the game and required frequent watering, it was preferable to playing on an artificial surface. The US WNT had to settle for the Alamodome’s artificial surface Thursday night, with the football yardage markers blackened out but still visible. The World Cup in Canada also was played on artificial surfaces. The Men’s World Cup has never been played on artificial surfaces.
None of that mattered much to the fans, many of them school-age girls and young women, once the match began Thursday night. Megan Rapinoe, the team’s star midfielder-winger, injured her knee while training in Hawaii for the match that was canceled. Her many fans will have to see if the 30-year-old Rapinoe stays with the team for another World Cup and makes another San Antonio appearance sometime in the future.
U.S. Soccer announced the five nominees for 2015 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year on Thursday. The finalists include midfielders Lauren Holiday, who has retired from international play, Lloyd, Rapinoe, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, and Solo, all of whom played significant roles in the 2015 World Cup win. Lloyd won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and Solo won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper.
The winner will be announced Dec. 16. Both USA-China matches will be televised on FOX Sports 1.
*Featured Image: Christen Press (left) celebrates with Lindsey Horan (center) and Abby Wamback. Photo by Scott Ball.