United States beats South Africa, 1-0. Hope Solo gets record 100th shutout

mallory and crystal

By TOM SLATER

As far as tune-ups go, it was fine.

The United States Women’s National Team continued to get ready for the Rio Summer Olympic games with a 1-0 victory over South Africa at Soldier Field.

Most notable was Hope Solo’s 100th shutout as the national team goalkeeper. The milestone made her the first goalkeeper in history — male or female — with 100 clean sheets. She also now has 150 victories as an American goalkeeper, shutting out 29 different countries.

Despite the achievement, Solo had little to do most of the afternoon, stopping one shot as the South Africans played disciplined on defense but naïve on the attack, never really challenging the Americans.

The United States scored in the 35th minute when teen phenom Mallory Pugh took a pass from Meghan Klingenberg and danced her way past defender Ode Fulutudilu and got to the endline. Pugh served  a sharp ball through three South African defenders to an unmarked Crystal Dunn. The Washington Spirit player stepped into the pass and roofed it past goalkeeper Roxanne Barker for her 13th international goal in 25 international appearances.

There were several more chances for the United States. Christen Press had one in the first minute when she was sent in alone on Barker but tried to bend it around the post and the shot went wide. Pugh had a sitter in the first half that she couldn’t connect on. Allie Long got a header on a Kelley O’Hara serve that beat Barker but the ball was cleared off the line by defender Nothando Vilakazi. Alex Morgan sidestepped Barker but was just off on her strike on goal.

The match also saw the return of Carli Lloyd. Injured since late April, Lloyd came on in the second half and played the full 45 minutes, although she was originally scheduled for just a 30 minute run.

Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s victory:

Was there a more dominant 1-0 win? Yes, South Africa was one counter attack away from a draw. Yes, they hung tough and were organized on defense. But you got the feeling these two teams could have played another 90 minutes and South Africa wouldn’t have scored. The back four played smart and strategically all day but it was more of a case of South Africa’s midfield and strikers hesitant when they  crossed midfield. They rushed when they had time. They dribbled when they should have passed.

South Africa may take solace in the score but the Americans were never in trouble.

Klingenberg had a great game: It seemed that every time the United States threatened, especially in the first half, Klingenberg was involved. She sent in Press early in the match. She started the play on the goal by stealing an errant South Africa clearance, sliding a pass to Pugh on the run. She kept the ball in play with a square ball to Press who chipped to Morgan. She tucked inside going forward, leaving Pugh plenty of room to operate on the flank.

It won’t say it in box score, but she played very well.

Hey, remember me? Fan favorite Heather O’Reilly was freed from the American bench in the 83rd minute and got some playing time. It may have been O’Reilly’s final appearance. Megan Rapinoe figures to get some time in the last friendly against Costa Rica in about two weeks. And Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath also should be back in the lineup. Long and Lindsey Horan continue to get playing time. The most realistic scenario for O’Reilly is to be an alternate and be ready if Rapinoe isn’t fully healed and can’t go in Brazil.

Next up: The final sendoff match will be against Costa Rica in Kansas City on July 22 (9 p.m. EST, ESPN).