Commerce City, Colorado was the site of Kelley O'Hara's 100th cap and even though the Sky Blue defender did not see out the game, she will be delighted her overall performance and that of her teammates as the United States Women's National Team finished as 3-1 victors over New Zealand.
A brace from Julie Ertz and a goal by Alex Morgan was enough to grant the home side the win with Hannah Wilkinson picking up New Zealand's only goal of the game.
Ertz shines in a fast paced first half
After some worrying performances leading up to this series against New Zealand, the USWNT wanted to make a statement and started off the game pressing high up the field. Their willingness to take the game to their opponents lead to a brace by Ertz and they should have had more in that first half.
Her first goal of the night came when O'Hara swung the ball back into the box in the 16th minute after the initial corner kick had been cleared. The cross found Lindsey Horan who knocked the ball down towards Ertz and the Chicago Red Stars player finished form close range.
Ertz's second goal of the night came eight minutes later after some great combination play between Morgan and Taylor Smith set free Mallory Pugh out wide. Pugh's cut back from the byline found Megan Rapinoe who could only react in disbelief as her header came off the post. Ertz, following up the play then finished well on the volley to put in the rebound and put the US two-nil up.
For most of the first 45 minutes, New Zealand were completely out of the game and barely troubled the USWNT backline. Instead, it was all US and the home side should have put the game away in the first half. Horan was inches away from crosses on multiple occassions and both Ali Riley and Ria Percival had to be at their sharpest to knock the ball away from goal at the last minute before a US player could get on the end of it. The visitors survived the first half onslaught and went into the break only two goals down.
A slower second half still yields goals
The half-time break also brought about a change in tempo as both the USWNT and New Zealand played the game at a slower tempo. That was due to the lack of pressing up top by the USWNT and a change in tactics by New Zealand which limited the amount of space the US flank players got.
It did not stop the game from producing goals as we got two in the latter stages of the second half. Before being substituted off, Rapinoe provided two great set pieces that both Horan and Samantha Mewis did not make the most of when it was easier to score. Morgan eventually got the third goal for the US in the 79th minute when the newly capped Sofia Huerta played a great cross field goal to pick out Morgan at the far post. The Orlando Pride striker brought down the ball well and finished into the roof of the goal from a tight angle.
New Zealand can take a lot of positives from their performance tonight which culminated in a goal of their own. Ali Riley, captaining the New Zealand side, swung the ball in between Becky Sauerbrunn and O'Hara and Wilkinson beat Alyssa Naeher to the ball to nod in New Zealand's consolation goal. Wilkinson could have gotten a second deep into stoppage time when Annalie Longo found her in almost the exact same position but she couldn't get enough power on her header to beat Naeher a second time.