Photo by Stuart Browning/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
BOCA RATON, Fla. — After missing the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first game of the year, Carli Lloyd came back with a vengeance.
Lloyd set the tone for the U.S. with a first-half brace as they routed Russia, 7-0, in a friendly at FAU Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Lloyd’s goals in front of the 8,857 fans in attendance came just eight minutes apart and in her first match back since serving a one-game suspension for a red card received in a friendly vs. Brazil last November.
Christen Press added a brace of her own in the second half, and Heather O’Reilly, Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach all added tallies of their own against a Russia side that was reduced to 10 players after defender Valentina Orlovo was sent off with a straight red card in the 68th minute.
It was Lloyd, however, who really stole the show with her two well-taken finishes in the 29th and 37th minutes and a second-half assist.
“I thought she was outstanding,” said U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni. “That output of energy in this sort of game – she was really motivated. I thought from the center of midfield, she dominated the game from in there. … She deserved a hat-trick there and some more goals in the second half.”
Lloyd nearly came up with that third goal late in the first half, but the crossbar denied her. Russia was not able to count on that sort of luck for much of the remainder of the match, as the Americans overwhelmed the visitors by dominating possession and attacking down the flanks. The U.S. finished with 32 shots.
Three of those found the back of the net in the first half. Lloyd opened the scoring with a nifty dribbling run and finish and that was followed by a well-taken, 32nd-minute volley from O’Reilly, who practiced those kinds of shots with the rest of her U.S. teammates during a drill the day before.
“I was in the middle of the box and it was just sort of bouncing around,” said O’Reilly, who assisted on Lloyd’s winner. “I was able to pounce on it the way that I see some of my teammates, like Christen Press, do every single day on the training field. Today was my turn, so I felt good about it.”
Lloyd, who had a black right eye following a collision in training, then added her second of the day. She hit a blast from distance past helpless Russia goalkeeper Elvira Todua after Stephanie Cox whipped in a ball from the left flank.
“It feels great. I’ve been ready to get back on the field,” said Lloyd. “I love training, I love doing fitness, but there’s nothing like a game. That’s rewarding, that’s when you can kind of let everything, all your training unfold and go out there, enjoy it. You don’t think, you just play, and everything kind of comes out with that.”
The Americans came out of the intermission continuing to attack relentlessly against a Russia team that was pinned on its heels from the game’s opening whistle, and Press netted in the 51st minute following a feed from Lloyd.
Leroux scored three minutes later, slipping a shot into the back of the net after Lauren Holiday hit her with a good pass into space. Press then added the U.S.’s sixth of the day in the 59th minute by knocking in a spilled Ali Krieger shot.
“That’s sort of the style of our team,” said Press when asked why the U.S. scored in bunches. “When we get a goal, we get hyped up, we get adrenaline, we were keeping a lot of possession in the first half, kind of wore the other team out a little bit. Once we got a goal, it sort of opened the floodgates. We’ve got such an aggressive attacking group that once there’s a little gap, we’re just running right through it trying to get to the goal.”
Wambach, who somewhat surprisingly did not start the match, capped the scoring a minute before Russia was reduced to 10 women. Amy Rodriguez set up the goal with a nice back-heel pass after a good passing sequence from the U.S.
“It wasn’t so much about just getting in the result,” said Sermanni. “I thought some of the habits and some of the things we’ve been doing in training really came into the game today. I was really pleased about that.”
The Americans will head to Atlanta on Monday ahead of a rematch with Russia at the Georgia Dome on Feb. 12.
What did you think of the USWNT’s 7-0 win over Russia? Who (really) impressed you? Think the Americans can outdo themselves vs. Russia in Georgia?
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