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WNT Dominate China PR in Second Algarve Cup Win

Algarve China

On Friday, the US Women’s National Team saw off China PR in a dominating 5-0 win in the Algarve Cup. The win puts the US in control of Group B with the much anticipated showdown with Sweden on Monday. Head coach Tom Sermanni made a total of 10 changes to the lineup that beat Iceland just two days before. US keeper Jill Loyden saw her Algarve Cup run come to an end when she suffered a broken bone in her left hand during training on Thursday, leaving the US with only Nicole Barnhart and Ashlyn Harris available for the rest of the tournament. Loyden will be out of action for up to three months compounding the US keeper injuries with Hope Solo undergoing successful surgery on her left wrist that will keep her out 3-4 months.

With a new lineup set to face off against China PR, the US had to be ready. China’s best chance of the game came just 13 minutes into the match when Zhang Rui was stopped by Barnhart on a one-on-one. That save sent the US attack streaking the other way with Sydney Leroux gaining possession in the midfield and going off to the races. Leroux beat Pu Wei down the left side, cut into the six yard box area and fired a shot that went under the gloves of the Chinese keeper to give the US a 1-0 lead. It would not take long though for the US to strike again. In the 32nd minute, defender Ali Krieger tallied her first ever goal for the National Team, when she beat Zhang Yue. Krieger took an Alex Morgan cross that was headed to the back post and put her shot in the back of the net to increase the US lead to 2-0. Krieger’s goal was the first of a WNT outside back since Lori Chalupney did it in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At the half time whistle, the US had a comfortable 2-0 lead against China PR.

The US attack was not done yet however, when just seconds into the second half, a Megan Rapinoe free kick from about 30 yards out found the back of the China goal. Rapinoe drove her kick into the China box and was deflected by a Chinese defender. Yue tried to keep the ball out of her goal, but it was already over the line and her clearing attempt sent the ball into the top inside netting instead. The US lead was now 3-0. China’s head coach Hao Wei had seen enough and pulled Zhang Yue in the 52nd minute and put Wang Fei in goal. The US would increase their lead in the 64th minute when Christen Press latched onto an Alex Morgan cross and rocketed her shot in the back of the net. This was the fourth goal for Press in just her fourth game. She is now the fourth player in Women’s National Team history to score four goals in her first four games.

If it was a game of records and firsts, then the final first goes to US defender Whitney Engen. Engen also scored her first goal for the US in the 84th minute. Engen was in the right place at the right time, when a shot by Heather O’Reilly’s shot was blocked and Engen put the rebound into the China net for a 5-0 US lead. Engen is the third US defender to score in the Algarve Cup so far this year. This was a dominating performance from the US from start to finish. Now the US must prepare for the most anticipated of group games, when they face Sweden on Monday.

Sweden is coached by former US coach Pia Sundhage, who left to return to her native Sweden last year. This is a Sweden team that struggled in their opening group game against China, but rebounded to rout Iceland 6-1 on Friday. The US will need to make sure that they are prepared for a Sweden side that is improving by the game. The US need either a win or a draw to advance to the Algarve Cup finals which will be held on March 12.

The WNT has had a pretty dominate Algarve Cup so far, being the only team to win both of their group games so far, but finding the right line-up for the Sweden game could be harder than it looks. Tom Sermanni will be without the services of Lauren Cheney, who left Portugal due to a family matter, and Jill Loyden. Carli Lloyd, who sat out Friday’s match against China with a minor knock to her left shoulder, should be available for Monday’s clash. If Lloyd were unable to go, that would mean that Yael Averbuch could get the start with Shannon Boxx in center midfield. Expect to see uncapped Ashlyn Harris in goal for the US on Monday giving her the chance to show Sermanni what she can do in goal with both Solo and Loyden out for the foreseeable future.

A US win or draw will send them to the Algarve Cup final where they will meet either Norway or Germany. Norway will square off against Germany for the top spot in Group A with both teams needing the win to advance to the finals. Anyway you look at it, Monday will certainly say a lot about where the US is heading under new coach Tom Sermanni and what we can expect to see from them in the future.

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