The United States women’s national team had no trouble defeating Nigeria on Saturday, winning the Americans’ first game since beating Canada on July 18 in the CONCACAF W Championship final in Kansas City 4-0.
– Report: USA 4-0 Nigeria
Sophia Smith scored a brace before half-time to continue a great year for club and country, while Lindsey Horan added a goal to her contributions, on top of her skillful patrol in midfield. Alex Morgan added a goal from the penalty spot in the second half.
GO TO: Player Ratings | Best/worst performance | Highlights and Notable Moments | Quotes after the game | Key Statistics | Upcoming appointments
1. It is clear that the USWNT has a consistent XI
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski started with exactly the same starting XI as last time out for USA against Canada, another indication that this is the group he will advance with on the road to the World Cup.
Andonovski said those two games against Nigeria – and the October 7 clash against European champions England – will be more geared towards familiarizing this group. Those desired combinations were evident in scoring moments like Smith’s second, when Alex Morgan checked low after the ball, turned and played overlapping full-back Emily Fox behind while Fox selected Smith for the finish.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (US)
While the chemistry seemed to be lacking at times on the road to USWNT’s regional triumph in Mexico last month, it was plentiful on Saturday. Horan and Rose Lavelle provided the USWNT with playmaking from central positions, creating wide-field passing triangles to throw Nigeria out of form and take an early lead.
There are currently injured players who will have an argument in favor of cracking the starting XI once they are healthy, but for now it’s clear who Andonovski favors.
2. No questions about the wingers
Smith and Mallory Pugh were exceptional for the United States flanking Alex Morgan. Smith’s two goals give her 10 for her senior international career, making her the second youngest player (behind Pugh) to reach that milestone in the past 20 years, according to Opta.
Pugh didn’t appear on the scorer list, but she delivered a number of early crosses into dangerous areas and continues to do the unrecognized dirty work, just like she does for the Chicago Red Stars. Pugh followed almost all the way back to her own 18-yard box in the 9th minute to regain the ball and launch a counterattack that should have led to more, but for a wasting ball from Fox.
The only real questions on the USWNT frontline concern the reinstatement of the injured Catarina Macario. Pugh, Smith and Morgan are on form and are the undeniable starters – and arguably the top three in the National Women’s Soccer League MVP race. They’ve all been in fine form all year but Saturday’s outstanding performance from Pugh and Smith was particularly encouraging for the USA after both endured some frustrating moments in front of goal during the CONCACAF W Championship.
3. Focus on full-back while Andonovski looks for depth
It was a good day being both Sofia and Sophia. Right-back Sophia Huerta also played her best game for the USWNT to date, playing a direct role in both Smith’s goals without appearing in the official assists column.
Huerta won the 50-50 ball in midfield after Nigeria’s goal kick to eventually bring Smith on for their opener. Huerta then made an exceptional tackle to not only prevent Nigeria from countering a USWNT corner kick but also led to Smith’s second goal a few touches later. Huerta was also good at the other end when it mattered, intervening to clear a loose ball in Nigeria’s only corner kick at half-time.
Fox, on the other hand, felt uncomfortable on the ball early in the game – including the ninth-minute counter-attack when she decided to pass to the wrong bishop – but soon became involved in more combination play, including Smith’s second goal.
Remarkably, Hailie Mace replaced Fox with 20 minutes remaining. Mace is at camp with the USWNT for the first time in over four years, necessitated by her form at the Kansas City Current (and Kelley O’Hara’s injury). Full-back remains an important position for USA from a depth perspective and Mace offers an attacking profile like Fox with added physicality and more of the mind of a converted forward.
United States (4-3-3): Alyssa Naher 6; Sofia Huerta8, Becky Sauerbrunn6, Alana Cook6, Emily Fox7; Rose Lavelle 7, Lindsey Horan 8, Andi Sullivan 7; Sophia Smith8, Alex Morgan7, Mallory Pugh7.
Subtitle: Megan Rapinoe 6, Hailie Mace 7, Ashley Sanchez 6, Margaret “Midge” Purce 6, Ashley Hatch 6, Kristie Mewis 6.
Nigeria (4-2-3-1): Chiamaka Nnadozie 5; Michelle Alozie5, Osinachi Ohale5, Glory Ogbonna5, Toni Payne5; Deborah Ajibola 5, Christy Ucheibe 5; Uchenna Kanu 5, Rasheedat Ajibade 6, Gift Monday 6; Ifeoma Onumonu 6.
Subtitle: Blessing Demehin 5, Vivian Ikechukwu 6, Rofiat Adenike Imuran 6, Amanda Mbadi 6, Akudo Ogbonna 5, Nicole Payne 5.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Sophia Smith, USA
This was Smith’s best game in a USWNT jersey. She scored twice, disrupting Nigeria’s back four both in dribbling in wide areas and with central runs, and giving defensive work to press when needed.
WORST: Osinachi Ohale, Nigeria
Nigeria’s entire back four struggled and it was Ohale who often struggled to organize unity and make quick decisions, such as when she failed to keep up with Morgan on the USWNT’s third goal.
Highlights and notable moments
When it comes to cuts, it doesn’t get much better than what Lindsey Horan did to Christy Ucheibe to score United States’ second goal.
— US Women’s National Soccer Team (@USWNT) September 3, 2022
Team Goals: This is the type of combination play that the USWNT needs more of.
One touch is enough @sophssmith!
— US Women’s National Soccer Team (@USWNT) September 3, 2022
After the game: what the managers, players said
“I thought we controlled the game, controlled the tempo of the game throughout the 90 minutes but I also didn’t feel like we finished as strong as we started so that’s disappointing. Something we needed to address or work on and talk about in preparation for the next game.” — USWNT Manager Vlatko Andonovski
“First of all, this is the best team in the world and to play on this team you have to be one of the best in the world. She’s a special player and she certainly develops aspects of her game that she might not have been great at: ability to put in pockets or spot those pockets and then reveal defenses. For us as coaches, we’re happy to see that because it gives us another layer or opportunity to strategize in a way that we think we can unmask teams.” — Andonovski about Sophia Smith
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
-Alex Morgan (USA): scored a penalty in the 52nd minute; She has 119 international goals, 11 behind Kristine Lilly for fourth highest in USWNT history
-Alex Morgan (USA): 14th player in USWNT history to score against at least one team from each of the 6 FIFA confederations
-Sophia Smith (USA): scored two goals (14′ & 45+1′); She now has 10 goals in 22 caps and ties Michelle Akers for the sixth-fastest with double-digit goals in USWNT history
– Lindsey Horan (USA): scored her first goal with the national team since 27 November 2021 against Australia in a friendly in the 25th minute
-USWNT: 12th straight win in all competitions, beating opponents 50-1 in 12 gmae winning streak
-USWNT: The win extends his home unbeaten streak to 70 games (63 wins, 7 ties)
-USWNT: Ninth consecutive shutout, last goal against USWNT in a competition was against Uzbekistan on April 9
The USWNT and Nigeria will play each other again Tuesday night at DC United’s Audi Field.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-the-match/story/4736321/sophia-smith-stars-as-settled-uswnt-side-stroll-to-comfortableclassy-win-over-nigeria Sophia Smith stars as settled USWNT side stroll to comfortable, classy win over Nigeria