In his final game as head coach, Tom Sermanni guided the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 2-0 victory over the People’s Republic of China.
PATRICK SHEA | APRIL 6, 2014
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In the first of two friendlies between the U.S. Women’s National Team and the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. dominated but left Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a misleading 2-0 victory margin.
The Americans outshot China 23-1, maintained possession, and never let the visitors find a rhythm. But fans took double-takes at the scoreboard showing 1-0 with less than 15 minutes to play. The Chinese were maintaining the one-goal limit they enforced in all four games at the Algarve Cup last month.
In the 78th minute, Megan Rapinoe finally cut the tension when she curled in a free kick for the two-goal cushion. Whitney Engen made a run through the box before Rapinoe took the kick, and the ball dipped over Engen’s head before curling off the ground and the far post into the net.
Rapinoe replaced Lauren Holiday in the 67th minute, surprisingly adding zip to what was already a full-throttle performance from the U.S. team. Holiday scored the first goal in the 39th minute when she finished off a long flurry of shots, saves, and deflections with a low strike in the left corner.
Although he was relieved of his duties as head coach, Tom Sermanni had nothing but praise for his players.
“I’m impressed with the way we played for most of the game,” Sermanni said. “We put them under pressure for 90 minutes. We kept the ball, and we had really good, incisive play. We could have won by three or four more goals. Our strength is to be an attacking team. That’s the culture and the skillset of the team.”
Playing game number 201 for the U.S., Heather O’Reilly wore the captain’s armband and displayed the attack-first mentality from the start of the game. She battled to keep the ball in the box on the play leading up to Holiday’s goal. O’Reilly looked to skin defenders when she had space, most notably a nutmeg to get into the box right before halftime.
Three of Sermanni’s starters against China are in a unique position with Tyresö FF in Sweden. Before they return for the start of the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Engen, forward Christen Press, and defender Meghan Klingenberg will continue with the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals. On April 19, Tyresö FF will travel to face Birmingham City LFC, playing the second leg at Tyresövallen arena just outside Stockholm on April 27.
“Firstly, they’ve been playing regularly,” Sermanni said of the trio. “And secondly I think playing over there with that competition really helps them, not just with sharpness and soccer fitness. I think it helps the soccer brain, the football thinking,” he said, pointing to his head. “They really benefit from it overall.”
Interim head coach Jill Ellis will take over for Sermanni, starting with the rematch against China PR in San Diego on April 10.