In front of 16,425 spectators at Avaya Stadium, the United States Women's National Team pulled out a 8-1 win over visitors Romania. It was an expected score line considering the latent level between the two teams however, Romania exposed the lingering questions that the US still have to address since their early exit from the Olympics.
A quick start sets the tone of the game
It did not take long for the US to find spaces in the box and then to capitalise on them. The first goal of the game came in the eighth minute when Tobin Heath, who was playing in her new wing back position, found Crystal Dunn with a long ball into the box. Dunn's first touch was a heavy one but it fell directly to the feet of Christen Press who finished clinically to put the home side 1-0.
Two minutes later and the US were 2-0 up. Newcomer Andi Sullivan found Press in space at the top of the box and Press then swiveled to play in an onrushing Morgan Brian. The pass evaded Brian but Heath was on hand to one-time finish her curling effort into the far corner.
The game fell into a bit of a lull as the US continued to dominate proceedings and in the 25th minute, Brian was on hand with a diving header to connect to Sullivan's set piece delivery into the box. It was 3-0 after 25 minutes and you could be forgiven for thinking that the Romanians would lose their fight but they did not.
Romania expose the defensive flaws in the US system
Prior to Brian's goal, the Romanians had shown that they were capable of exploiting the gaps left behind by the US back three. In the 16th minute, Andreea Corduneanu got forward from the back to put in a great cross into the box. Laura Rus, who plays in South Korea, drifted away from Allie Long and got her head onto the cross only to nod it just wide with a scrambling Ashlyn Harris diving for the ball.
In the 31st minute, those defensive gaps were exposed by Rus again and this time, the Romanian forward made no mistake with her finishing. A long ball found Rus by the halfway line and her run split the gap between Long and fellow defender Casey Short. Harris, who had been standing high up the pitch was then caught in no-man's land by Rus who easily rounded the Orlando Pride goalkeeper before tucking the ball away into an empty net. Romania had shown that they were capable of finding ways through on goal and their attacking play, when they did get forward, was worthy of this goal.
The US find another gear and finish the game off
It did not take long for the US to bounce back from conceding that goal. Four minutes later, Press picked her second of the night when Lynn Williams' effort was blocked by a defender and the rebound fell to Press who squeezed in the goal at the near post. The US were not done and in the 38th minute, Brian made another good run towards the byline before feeding the ball to an unmarked Press in the box who scored her third of the night and the US' fifth.
In the second half, the US continued to get forward even with the numerous substitutions made at half time. In the 52nd minute, Dunn, who had been switched to right wing back, broke forward and found substitute Alex Morgan with a cross. Morgan beat her marker in the air and scored the sixth goal of the night for the US.
Morgan went on to miss a penalty in the 65th minute which goalkeeper Roxana Oprea read well to stop and continued Morgan's misfortune from the spot. She soon rectified that miss when ten minutes later, Oprea failed to clear her lines and Morgan was on hand to chip into an empty net. The final goal of the game was an own goal by Maria Ficzay as she deflected Heath's effort into her own net.
Romania show their growth while the US still seem defensively fragile
The US has one of the most potent attacks in the world but it is their defending that will cause their fans sleepless nights. The question still remains over how well Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris will fill the void left by Hope Solo and Harris will not have done herself any favours of winning the number one spot after her error tonight. The decision to place Long in a three-back system continues to be a puzzling issue as the midfielder is clearly struggling with her marking and defensive positioning. Long was caught out on more that one occasion by Rus's runs and against better opposition, the US are there for teh taking at the back.
Romania can take heart from tonight's performance. They caused the US problems when they did attack in numbers but they were let down by their lack of defensive organisation and discipline. If they continue on in the trajectory they are on, they could potentially qualify for a major tournament in the near future.