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Alex Morgan scores, helps USWNT beat Scotland 1-0 in final match of 2018

PAISLEY, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Mallory Pugh congratulates teammate Alex Morgan after she scores against Scotland at The Simple Digital Arena in Paisley, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

In its final match of the year, the United States women’s national team picked up a narrow 1-0 victory against Scotland at The Simple Digital Arena in Paisley, ending the year without a single defeat.

The game’s lone goal came in the 39th minute, as USWNT forward Alex Morgan scored her 98th international goal. Forward Mallory Pugh sent a cross in from the right side to Morgan, who was waiting in front of goal for the pass. From there, it was an easy finish for the team’s long-time goalscorer.

Though it was an expected victory, it was ultimately a hard-fought one for the reigning world champions. The Scots, who will play in next summer’s Women’s World Cup for the first time, started the match on top and gave the U.S. defense plenty of work. The hosts had a chance in the opening 10 minutes to capitalize after the defense mishandled a shot, but goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris eventually ended the play after she also misread the situation.

Once the USWNT absorbed the early pressure, though, they took control of the game. Several shots followed, and so did the eventual Morgan goal, her 18th for the national team in 2018.

The second half was a more even affair, as the U.S. had difficulty breaking down Scotland’s organized defense. The Scots did well in off-the-ball situations and eventually started working on finding an equalizer. Similarly, the USWNT was searching for a second goal, and got an opportunity to do so when Pugh was fouled in the penalty area in the 61st minute. Team captain Carli Lloyd took the penalty, which hit the crossbar.

Eventually, Scotland worked itself back into the game, setting up for a final 15 minutes of back-and-forth play. While the U.S. continued to challenge the Scottish defense, Scotland came up with its own opportunities, including one that midfielder Erin Cuthbert hit from distance that ended up wide of the goal in the final minutes. Despite that chance and a few others on set pieces, the USWNT won its 18th game of the year.

“It’s been great this year being undefeated,” Morgan said on the television broadcast following the match.

However, she was not completely satisfied with the way the match played out.

“I don’t feel like this was our strongest performance by any means, but I do have to give credit to Scotland,” she said. “I feel like they played well. A pretty physical team and first half, there was a lot of times where they dominated play.”

The USWNT lacked some cohesion, partly because the match served as auditions of sorts for players fighting for spots on next year’s World Cup roster.

University of North Carolina defender Emily Fox earned her second cap in the left back position, pushing Crystal Dunn into a midfield position. At right back, Portland Thorns’ Emily Sonnett played while Kelley O’Hara recovers from ankle surgery, and further up the pitch, Morgan played on the left side of the forward line while Lloyd played in her usual center forward spot. Additionally, Harris started and Alyssa Naeher was rested, while Chicago Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico picked up her second cap as a substitute.

The USWNT will begin its 2019 campaign Jan. 19 by heading to France to play the World Cup hosts at Le Havre’s Stade Océane, a venue for next year’s tournament.

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