After topping Costa Rica with a whopping eight goals, the US faced a much more difficult opponent in Australia, who for most of the first half had the better of the play. The US fielded a lineup that featured two changes from the side that crushed Costa Rica, with Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Cheney starting instead of Rachel Buehler and Shannon Boxx.
About 20,000 fans at the Home Depot Center watched the US turn in yet another win in 2012. Alex Morgan, at 23, earned her 50th cap for the team.
Australia started the game by putting the US immediately on their heels. In the 4th minute, Sarah Walsh, Australia’s third highest goalscorer (37 goals in 74 caps), put an open header off-target. Just three minutes later, Katie Gill had a good chance that bounced wide of the goal but had Hope Solo alert. The US struggled to maintain possession and generate any clear chances until the 28th minute, when Morgan danced into the penalty area but couldn’t get a shot off.
Walsh was through in the 19th minute and had both the defense and Solo beaten, but her effort just barely hit the post, allowing Christie Rampone to clear it. In the same minute, Morgan beat her defender at the other end but her shot was inches wide and into the side netting.
One of the biggest problems for the US in the first half was wide play. Megan Rapinoe in particular was spending a lot of time in the middle of the pitch, trying to combat Australia’s excellent midfield play. In the 26th minute, a long distance effort from Australia made it over Solo, bounced off the post, and hit Solo in the back. Luckily for the US, the ball didn’t go into the net. In the 29th minute, the US got what was their best chance of the game so far, with Tobin Heath making a great pass to Morgan, whose shot was wide once more.
Australia punished the US’ disappointing play after 34 minutes. Lisa de Vanna made a fantastic run down the left flank, spinning around Rampone and beating her in a foot race. She placed her shot perfectly into the far upper corner past Solo, deservedly giving Australia the lead.
The US began to come alive towards the end of the first half. Morgan forced a good save from young keeper Brianna Davey, and Heath put an excellent shot on target that Davey also saved. Then, in the 46th minute, Megan Rapinoe almost had herself an Olímpico when her corner kick hit the crossbar, and Morgan hit the side netting yet again. Nevertheless, the US went into halftime trailing Australia 1-0.
Pia Sundhage made four changes to start the second half. Shannon Boxx, Rachel Buehler, Heather Mitts, and Heather O’Reilly came on for Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe. The US started the second half playing much better than in the first, stringing together possession and executing some nice build-up play. Morgan had a good opportunity in the box in the 53rd minute, but she was facing away from goal.
In the 55th minute, Morgan levelled things for the US. She received an excellent pass, rounded her defender, and took a terrific left-footed shot from inside the eighteen that gave the keeper no chance. Morgan would be involved in the US’ second goal as well. On 61 minutes, Davey brought down Morgan in the box after Morgan’s touch put a great ball from Heath past the keeper. The referee rightly didn’t issue a red card, given that this was a friendly, but the US were still awarded a penalty. Boxx converted the PK, giving the US the 2-1 lead.
Amy Rodriguez replaced Abby Wambach in the 67th minute, while Sydney Leroux came on for Alex Morgan in the 78th. The US continued to play well after taking the lead, with a Lauren Cheney strike flashing across the face of goal in the 73rd. While Australia battled at the end looking for an equalizer, the US played most of the second half at Australia’s end and ultimately the penalty decided the match.
The USWNT take on Australia again this Wednesday at 10:00 PM ET on ESPN2.