USWNT finishes 2016 with an easy 5-0 win over Romania

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by TOM SLATER

Following last summer’s Olympic disappointment, United States Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis has been searching for ways to break down and beat teams that bunker down against them.

In the team’s final match of 2016 Sunday night, the American side had plenty of opportunity to solve that problem against a Romanian side determined to avoid another blowout similar to the 8-1 loss suffered Thursday.

Keeping seven and eight players back as a rule, Romania did make the United States work for their goals, but in the end the talented Americans — especially Crystal Dunn — were too much. The United States completed the calendar year without a loss with a  5-0 win over Romania at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

The United States finished the year with a 22-0-3 record. The loss to Sweden in penalty kicks in the Olympic quarterfinals is officially recorded as a draw.

With Romania much more disciplined and organized in a crowded back line, the United States needed 20 minutes to finally crack the score sheet. Dunn was responsible for both goals in the first 45 minutes. She fought off a pair of Romanian defenders in the 20th minute and sent a cross near the goal. Romanian defender Teodora  Meluta tries to chest it down but it went into her own net.

Dunn finished off the first-half scoring in extra time when she took a great pass from Christen Press and moved in on goal from the right wing. Four later Dunn blasted a shot that beat Romanian goalkeeper Roxana Oprea. Dunn has scored in every United States match in 2016.

Even on the near goals in the first half, it was Dunn igniting the play. She picked off an errant Romania clearance and squared to Lynn Williams. Williams picked out the far post but sailed the shot wide. Earlier, Dunn had a chance in front of the net but it went over the bar.

In the second half, the United States wasted no time in adding a third goal. Press and Tobin Heath worked a give-and-go with Heath cutting the ball back from the left wing across the penalty area. Press followed the play and one-timed the shot in the net just 10 minutes into the second half.

There were other chances and close calls in the second half. Heath hit the post. Andi Sullivan had a chance for her first international goal in the final seven minutes.

Morgan Brian made it 4-0 a penalty kick by slotting the shot home in the 88th minute. Sam Mewis got the final goal of the year in stoppage time when Kelley O’Hara served off a short corner kick — a play that the Americans tried all night without success. Mewis easily nodded it down for the goal.

Although the score was closer than Thursday, Romania bunkered way in. They never got a counter attack and as a result never took a shot in the match as Alyssa Naeher had her easiest shutout in her career.