Julio Cortez/Associated Press
The United States women’s national team ended their preparations for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a win, beating rivals Mexico 3-0 on Sunday in Harrison, New Jersey.
Tobin Heath celebrated her 150th cap in style with the opener in the 11th minute after a mistake from Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. The Stars and Stripes kept prodding for a second goal but didn’t find one until the 76th minute, when Mallory Pugh doubled the lead. Christen Press added a third goal in the final minutes.
The defending champions will face Thailand, Chile and Sweden in the group stages of the World Cup.
The United States predictably came out with plenty of energy early, feeding off the home crowd and hoping to put away El Tri before they found some momentum.
They got a helping hand from Santiago, who gifted Heath the opener with a dreadful pass:
The American Outlaws @AmericanOutlaws
Tobin Heath will take your gift, add a little sauce and …
A GOAL ON HER 150TH CAP! https://t.co/2iLJe2Yb14
More goals seemed inevitable after the early opener, but Santiago soon started to make up for her errors. The 24-year-old stopper played a fantastic first half, aided by some poor finishing from the Stars and Stripes.
The best chance of the half fell to Alex Morgen, who also spent some time on the sidelines after taking a kick to the shins:
Jonathan Tannenwald @thegoalkeeper
35′ Julie Ertz blocks a ball with her face, Megan Rapinoe gets it and springs Alex Morgan with an outside of the foot pass, and Celia Santiago comes off her line to make a big stop. #USWNT #USAvMEX
USWNT reporter Erin Fish was impressed with the efforts from the Mexican stopper:
Erin Fish, FIFA @FIFAWWC_USA
Besides the one giveaway mistake that led to a goal, Santiago has been a BEAST for Mexico today. #USAvMEX
The pace of the contest dropped as the half wore on, in part due to the heat the match was played in. The Stars and Stripes were happy to defend their lead heading into half-time, with plenty of substitutions expected at the break.
Manager Jill Ellis didn’t disappointed, and scorer Heath was shifted around the pitch so much she wound up playing left-back:
Caitlin Murray @caitlinmurr
Tobin Heath is playing left back. I’d have trouble believing it, but Heath is like 20 feet in front of me, and it’s way too hot outside for me to be asleep and dreaming. #USWNT #USAvMEX
The many changes didn’t aid the level of play, however, as Mexico continued to find success with their high defensive line. Morgan tried to make the most of several balls over the top, but the offside trap was working, and Santiago’s heroics carried over into the second half.
The heat took its toll on the hosts as well, with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in need of the trainers at one point:
Neil W. Blackmon @nwblackmon
Naeher moving well after some water. It is really hot- about a 20 degree change from yesterday too so the US didn’t get to train in this heat.
The USWNT’s efforts to find a second goal were finally rewarded with roughly 15 minutes left to play, when Pugh just about managed to push the ball over the line after good work from Carli Lloyd:
The American Outlaws @AmericanOutlaws
Carl Lloyd will smoke you and Mal Pugh will finish you. #TourDeFour https://t.co/k05trPiHbL
With the pressure of finding the second goal gone, the Stars and Stripes’ level improved, and Press also got on the board:
While the hosts were far from their best, they showed the depth that will make them strong contenders in the upcoming World Cup. The efficiency in front of goal will have to improve, but Ellis has enough time to work on that with her squad before the opener against Thailand.
The Stars and Stripes will travel to France, where they’ll open their World Cup campaign on June 11 against Thailand. Mexico failed to qualify for the tournament.