Observations from last night’s 5-0 USWNT win over Costa Rica

carli loyd

by TOM SLATER

The United States Women’s National Team starts its bid for a second-straight Olympic gold medal with a bang – scoring three goals in the first quarter-hour and coasting to a 5-0 win over Costa Rica last night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The game was over from the start as Costa Rica – who was expected to build off its strong World Cup effort – was never in the game.

But three points aside, here’s what we learned from last night’s match:

MORGAN AND LLOYD ARE CLICKING

Much was made of the fact that Morgan, who burst onto the scene for good in 2011, had an off-World Cup performance, scoring only one goal in the 2015 World Cup while still recovering from a knee injury.

Her performance – and more important, her ability to click with Lloyd – was considered critical if the Americans were to continue with their dominance.

And so far, 2016 has been good to both. In two games this year, the Americans have scored 10 goals and half have included the Morgan/Lloyd combination. Lloyd has assisted on three Morgan goals while Morgan has the helper on two of Lloyd’s tallies.

More importantly — the two played off each other like old friends, one zigging and the other zagging with the ball ending up in the net.

The opening goal – just :12 seconds in for a new US record – was a perfect example and foreshadowing of things to come. After Lindsey Horan served a perfect ball to Lloyd about 25 yards from goal, Lloyd quickly directed the ball to a streaking Morgan, who gathered it in and slotted it past a surely dazed Dinnia Diaz.

The two clicked again in the 63rd minute with the Americans building up the play from the back until Lloyd had the ball on the right flank. She served a perfect floating ball that was placed delicately in between a pair of defenders. Morgan glided into space and snapped a header for the fourth goal of the night.

While those were the efforts that ended in goals, there many other chances by both that could have ended up in the back of the net. Their timing and understanding of each other are at a very high level right now, which could mean a long night for Mexico and Puerto Rico over the next week.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan are not exactly new to the USWNT, but last night’s match was the first one that meant anything. Both played well and did nothing to hurt their chances of staying in the lineup.

Dunn was confident on the ball and looked to attack all night off the dribble. Her run into the box in the ninth minute resulted in a foul. Although the foul looked to be committed just outside the box, a penalty kick was given and Lloyd made no mistake.

Dunn scored herself when she found a good position inside the penalty area and was rewarded with a serve that was right at her feet. Her initial shot was saved but she was persistent and hammered the rebound into the net for the third goal of the half.

Horan was equally effective. She looked comfortable with Morgan Brian in the midfield and sent several nice serves to her teammates. Her quick serve seconds into the match led to the opening goal and later she made a strong run into the box to receive a throw-in from Becky Sauerbrunn that led to Dunn’s goal.

Both put in solid performances before being subbed out in the 65th minute.

A CHANGE IN FORMATION – AND A THING OF BEAUTY

When Christen Press came on late in the match, Julie Johnston went out and the Americans shifted to a 3-5-2 formation.

Johnston was holding a yellow card and maybe Jill Ellis wanted to protect her in the final 15 minutes or so. Press went into the midfield and Sauerbrunn held the middle for the rest of the match.

In truth, it didn’t matter what formation the United States were in because they were that dominant. But it did result in a bit of crafty footwork for Press and the fifth goal. Tobin Heath, who by the way was quietly effective on the left wide, got wide again and served to Press just at the six. Press brought the ball down with her heel, twisting and turning before depositing an easy score past the now-dazed Diaz.

Whether it will earn Press a start or even more remains to be seen. It was a bit of surprise that both Press and Kelley O’Hara have been pushed down in the rotation, at least for now.