It took until the second half of the game for the United States of America to find the goals to emphasize their dominance over Mexico tonight but once they found their groove, it became a route. Thanks to goals by Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd and a brace by Alex Morgan, the USWNT ran out with a 4-1 victory over Mexico.
USA dominate but only manage one goal
The US maintained almost an 80% share of the possession throughout the first half but they could not convert the chances they created more than once. A quick start is what head coach Jill Ellis was probably looking for and she got that from her team when Mallory Pugh scored the opener in the sixth minute. Tierna Davidson helped the ball forward and it fell to Alex Morgan's feet. Morgan then turned and played a lovely ball to set Megan Rapinoe through on goal and the Seattle Reign FC player unselfishly squared the ball to Pugh who scrambled it home.
The US continued to create opportunities for themselves as Morgan, Rapinoe and Lindsey Horan all had great chances to score but unfortunately, could not keep their efforts on target. That lack of precision in front of goal was almost punished by Mexico in the 27th minute. Katie Johnson stole the ball in midfield and found Stephany Mayor in space out wide. The midfielder then intelligently cut the ball back for Monica Ocampo who blasted her effort high over the crossbar when it had been easier to score. The home side then had another scare in the 32nd minute when goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came out for a corner kick and completely misjudged the flight of the ball with no pressure on her. Had the set piece had a little more curl on it, Mexico would have had an improbable equalizer thanks to a goalkeeping error. Instead, both teams went into half time with the US on top.
Morgan reigns supreme in the second half
Alex Morgan seemed to find another gear after the break and Mexico could not cope with her pace and finishing. Her first contribution in a startling five minutes for the USWNT was winning a penalty off of Annia Mejía in the 50th minute. Morgan stepped up to take the penalty and finished powerfully past Bianca Henninger, who had guessed the right way. Morgan followed up her first ever international penalty with a brilliant strike in the 53rd minute. Crystal Dunn cut into midfield and found Horan who had found space in between Mexico's midfield and backline. The Portland Thorns FC midfielder then spotted Morgan's run and played the ball into her path. From a very tight angle, Morgan thumped the ball into the far corner and put the US three-nil up. While everyone was focused on the replay of her goal Carli Lloyd replaced Pugh and didn't waste any time joining in the act with her 99th international goal in the 54th minute.
Things should have been relatively easy for the US after that and honestly, they could have played in cruise control form that point on had it not been for some shocking work from Naeher, Abby Dahlkemper and Davidson. Naeher, who in the first half had been shaky, exacerbated that issue with a clearance in the 64th minute that went straight to a Mexican player. Monica Ocampo then jumped highest to nod the ball on towards Katie Johnson who had found the gap in between Dahlkemper and Davidson. Naeher came out too far away from her goal and gave Johnson the opportunity to lob the ball into an empty net. Naeher's decision may have made Johnson's choice easier but her finish was still very accomplished for the second-year Sky Blue FC forward. Johnson could've had a second from the kick-off but this time, Davidson got to the ball first and prevented another shock for the USWNT.
Overall, it was a dominant performance by the USWNT who were led by an outstanding Morgan, who was also captaining the side on the night. However, the worry over Naeher form during the last few games continues as her performance tonight did not instil confidence. Mexico have another shot at the USWNT on Sunday and may feel that if they cut out their errors, they have a very good chance of causing the upset.