Sparked by a pair of second half goals from Carli Lloyd the U.S. WNT came back to defeat old rivals Norway 2-1 in their first match of the Algarve Cup.
The Americans came to Portugal looking to rebound from a series of poor performances, including last month’s 2-0 thumping from France, followed by an unimpressive 1-0 win over England.
Coach Jill Ellis has targeted the Algarve Tournament as the time and place to pick her top 11 and top subs for this summer’s World Cup, and with that in mind Hope Solo was back in the U.S. net.
Despite a definitive U.S. possession advantage Solo played a big part in this result. Just over three minutes into the game Solo aggressively came off of her line only to drop the ball. Ali Kreider bailed out USWNT’s prodigal goalkeeper, but Solo’s adventures were only beginning. A similar drop later in the game also went unpunished, but Solo showed her worth with a big save in the 54th minute.
With the U.S. behind at the half Lloyd took charge. Her first goal brought the team back from that early 1-0 deficit, after the Americans fell behind despite dominating for most of the first half. Norway took the lead in the 43rd minute when Morgan Brian lost her mark in transition.
Both captain Christie Rampone, and her likely replacement Whitney Engen were unavailable forcing coach Jill Ellis to hand young center back Julie Johnston her biggest full national team start to date.
Ellis returned to Lori Chalupny at left fullback despite her troubles in France, and the coach kept faith with central midfield duo Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian.
The Yanks left some goals on the table in the first half, coming closest when Christen Press pinged a shot off of the upright from 25 yards.
Down 1-0 the U.S. came out quickly in the second half, settling for a corner kick from an Alex Morgan shot. Then Morgan should have tied the match when she broke in alone on goal, but Morgan’s weak effort was easily saved.
It was the type of play Morgan regularly finished with ease before being slowed by ankle injuries over the last 18 months, and the U.S. will need Morgan playing at that pre-injury level if they are to have any chance to claim a first World Cup since 1999.
Morgan’s importance is made greater by uncertainty over Abby Wambach’s role. The all time leader in international goals was very quiet against Norway as the debate continues, should Wambach start, or is it time for the veteran to come off of the bench.
While the team’s top strikers were unable to find the net, midfielder Lloyd was on target. Taking a 55th minute feed from Press, Lloyd eluded the Norwegian defense and unleashed an unstoppable left footed blast to draw the U.S. level.
Seven minutes later a shot from Press was handled for a U.S. penalty kick, and the confident Lloyd duly deposited the pk in the Norwegian net, to give the Americans a 2-1 lead.
Solo did her part to ensure that the lead would hold up, and the U.S. had an important win to start the Algarve Cup on a positive note.
The U.S are back in action in just two days when they face Switzerland. With the short turnaround Ellis will be expected to make at least a couple of changes as she continues to search for the right combination with Canada 2015 getting ever closer.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
NOR 1 0 1
NOR – Ada Hegerberg (Kristine Minde) 43rd minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Christen Press) 55
USA – Carli Lloyd (penalty kick) 62
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 26-Julie Johnston, 16-Lori Chalupny (25-Meghan Klingenberg, 46); 10-Carli Lloyd, 12-Lauren Holiday (15-Megan Rapinoe, 90+1), 14-Morgan Brian, 23-Christen Press (17-Tobin Heath, 78); 13-Alex Morgan (2-Sydney Leroux, 78), 20-Abby Wamach (capt.) (8-Amy Rodriguez, 56)
Subs Not Used: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 6-Whitney Engen, 7-Shannon Boxx, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 19-Rachel Van Hollebeke, 22-Crystal Dunn, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis
NOR: 12-Silje Vesterbekkmo; 6-Maren Mjelde, 7-Trine Rønning (capt.), 2-Marita Lund, 3-Inger Ane Hole; 17-Lene Mykjåland, 8-Solveig Gulbrandsen (14-Gry Tofte Ims, 74), 20-Emilie Haavi (19-Marie Markussen, 69); 18-Kristine Minde, 8-Isabel Herlovsen, 21-Ada Hegerberg
Subs Not Used: 1-Ingrid Hjelmseth, 4-Melissa Bjånesoy, 5-Hedda Gardsjord, 10-Maria Thorisdottir, 11-Ida Elise Enget, 13-Ingrid Moe Wold, 15-Anja Sønstevold, 16-Andrine Hegerberg, 22-Cathrine Dekkerhus, 23-Cecille Fiskerstrand
Head coach: Even Pellerud
Stats Summary: USA / NOR
Shots: 12 / 5
Shots on Goal: 7 / 4
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 8 / 3
Fouls: 5 / 11
Offside: 4 / 0
NOR – Trine Ronnin (caution) 62nd minute