U.S. Women's National Team, USWNT, Gotham FC
USWNT vs Uzbekistan (4-12-22)

USWNT Works Past Lightning Delay, Colombia’s Defense to Win 2-0

The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) rounded out their qualifying tune-ups with a 2-0 win over Colombia on Tuesday, June 28. Played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the game provided the U.S. with their sixth shutout of 2022, improving to 6-0-1 in the year.

Facing Colombia again for the second time in four days, the U.S. made a number of line-up changes from the first game in Colorado. Alyssa Naeher got the start in goal for the night, playing in her third match of the year for the USWNT. Also returning to the lineup were Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, starting their first game with the team since 2021.

Notably, Sophia Smith was left off the roster. The Portland Thorns FC forward scored two goals in the first match-up versus Colombia and is currently the second leading goal scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League, second only to Morgan.

U.S. Strong Offensive Start

Dominating possession once again, the USA started the match strong, attacking right from the opening minutes. Taking advantage of Colombia’s low defensive set-up, the U.S. moved the ball patiently across the defensive back, working with midfielders Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan, to find their fullbacks with space on the flanks. They eventually found their first goal like this in the 22nd minute when a Sofia Huerta cross took a deflection off of a Colombian header, an unfortunate own goal for Las Cafeteras.

Both fullbacks truly shined, with Huerta and Carson Pickett serving several dangerous crosses for goal-scoring opportunities throughout the match.

Pickett, despite not being on the upcoming Concacaf W Championship roster, earned her first international cap and first start, becoming the first player with a limb difference to play for the USWNT. She served an exceptional cross in the 31st minute to Gotham FC’s Margaret Purce, who headed the ball just over the cross bar, and overall worked well with Rapinoe on the left side to create space for attacks in the first half.

Substitution Star

Half-time substitute Trinity Rodman added great energy for the U.S in the second half. Using her first touches of the game to take on two Colombian defenders in the box, Rodman reached the goal line in the 46th minute and looked to cross the ball back on an angle. Colombia was unable to clear the ball well, and a Morgan shot deflected towards Rapinoe, who almost scored a header, but saw her goal saved by Colombia’s defender Arias Vidal.

The USA fed off of this energy for the next 10 minutes, working to find Rodman again making runs by the right side of the box. With another clever cross in the 54th minute, Rodman almost provided an assist to Washington Spirit teammate Ashley Sanchez. The 23-year-old, earning just her ninth career cap, received the ball by the penalty mark and attempted to shoot off first touch, but was unable to keep the ball down.

Increased Colombian Pressure

After failing to convert their chances, the U.S. almost had their game equalized. In the 55th minute, Colombia’s Leicy Santos weaved through the left side and struck a powerful shot from right outside the box, forcing the U.S.’s goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, to make a great save.

With some momentum, Colombia began to press forward on the left side, working with captain Daniela Montoya, Elexa Bahr, and Santos to provide the most attacking pressure Colombia had provided so far. Other substitutes for Colombia, including 17-year-old Linda Caicedo, also worked to move forward with intent, but the USA’s back four remained disciplined and managed to recover the ball quickly.

Lightning Delay Does Little to Disrupt USWNT Focus

Play was eventually interrupted at the 75th minute due to lightning, and despite being out of play for almost an hour, the USWNT seemed more focused after the restart.

Not even 2 minutes into the resume of play, Sanchez found Rodman with a long pass into the box, which Rodman headed back to find a teammate. Another poor clearance by Colombia landed at the feet of substitute Kelley O’Hara, who struck the ball first time into the back of the net, giving the U.S. a 2-0 lead and sealing the game’s fate.

Concacaf W Championship: Where Does the U.S. Stand?

After receiving an automatic bid for the Concacaf W Championship as title holders, the USWNT are again presumably favorites of the competition, though not without questions. Heading down to Monterrey, Mexico, the U.S. will face tough opponents from Jamaica, Haiti, and home-team Mexico in the first round. In addition, Olympic gold medalists Canada also serve as a difficult match-up in Group B (though they themselves have been unable to secure wins in their recent friendlies).

With a starting XI line-up not “officially” set, the USWNT will have to reflect on these past few performances to find the right combination of players who play well together and create serious goal-scoring opportunities to earn this World Cup bid.