Jill Ellis’ experimentation with youth and formations continued with the USWNT coming out in a 3-4-3 in the first of two games against Romania. Sticking with the same back three of Becky Sauerbrunn, Allie Long, and Casey Short, the US played with Tobin Heath, Andi Sullivan, Morgan Brian and Kealia Ohai across the midfield and Lynn Williams, Christen Press and Crystal Dunn as the attacking trio.
It is tough to truly rate the success of these new formations until the US plays a stronger opponent, but we have already seen in earlier games a few hiccups at the back and a familiar offensive dominance. Trends which continued in this game.
The US took the lead early in the game when Heath sent a diagonal ball into the box. With a defender applying pressure at her back, Dunn was able to get a touch, but couldn’t settle. Luckily, the loose ball found an unmarked Christen Press who buried a shot from the top of the box.
Two minutes later Press provided the service on the Yanks’ second goal of the night, sending a through ball into the box where Ohai and Heath were both making a run. Ohai got to the ball first and was looking to set up a cross, but Heath stepped in and curled in a shot at the far post.
In the 16th minute Romania nearly pulled one back when forward Laura Rus found space in the box between the US defense. Rus rose up above Allie Long to meet a cross into the box. Her header had US keeper Ashlyn Harris beat, but ended up on the wrong side of the far post.
The US continued to attack down the flanks where they had the advantage in speed. In response Romania began to up the physicality of play, committing fouls in dangerous areas. Eventually one of these fouls led to the third US goal when Dunn had her jersey pulled near the end line just outside of the penalty box. Heath drove the resulting free kick towards the penalty spot where Morgan Brian dove to meet the service with her head.
In the 31st minute Romania pulled one back as the US fell victim to a quick counterattack. Once again Rus was able to take advantage of the space between two US defenders and run onto a long ball over the top. Unfortunately, Harris was already positioned outside of her box when the ball was played and chose to move out to make a challenge for the ball. Rus easily took the ball past her and calmly finished into the empty net.
The US took the goal in stride and four minutes later reestablished their three-goal lead. Dunn made yet another run with the ball to the end line and sent a cross back towards the penalty area where four US attackers were waiting with only one defender in the area. Williams got on the end of the cross, but saw her shot blocked by that lone defender. Luckily the rebound fell to Press who slotted in her second goal of the night.
Press found the back of the net one last time in the first half to earn her hat trick. In the 38th minute Heath was played behind the Romanian defense with a through ball into the box. Heath sent the ball back towards the center of the box for Press to put the US up 5-1 at the half.
The US made five changes at halftime, bringing on Alex Morgan, Samantha Mewis, Julie Johnston, Jessica McDonald, Lindsey Horan for Sauerbrunn, Ohai, Williams, Press and Brian. McDonald made her US debut, but was unable to continue the current trend of scoring a first goal in record time (as both Ohai and Williams did in October).
The flow of the game did not change with the shuffling of the lineup and seven minutes into the second half, the US scored their sixth goal of the night when Dunn found Morgan at the top of the six. Morgan’s defender was on the wrong side which gave her more than enough time to size up a cross and place her header just under the crossbar.
At the hour mark Kelley O’Hara came on for Sullivan and the US switched to a 3-5-2 formation to finish out the remainder of the game.
In the 64th minute Moran was denied from the spot after Long was tripped up in the box. Morgan put a good amount of pace on the shot, but was not able to place it out of the reach of the diving keeper.
Morgan got her revenge in the 75th minute. Dunn sent a high cross into the box where Horan and Romania’s keeper both made a play for the ball. The keeper failed to get a touch to clear the ball from danger and instead it came off of Horan’s head towards Morgan who came back to the ball and turned her body to score on the a half volley.
The final goal of the night summed up how the game had been going for both teams when Heath dribbled past a pair of defenders into the box to give herself enough space to fire a shot towards the far post, but the ball deflected off defender Maria Ficzay and into the goal for an 8-1 finish.
The US will face Romania again on November 13th in Carson, California. Kick off is set for 8:30 PM CST and the game will be televised on FS1.