JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The United States women’s national team closed out the 2019 season in a characteristically relentless style on Sunday, routing Costa Rica in a 6-0 victory.
It newly minted U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s second match and his first shutout at the helm of the national team. And although it served as a low-risk friendly, the team carried a bite throughout the game, with young and mid-range players using the final match of the year to show the new coach their potential.
Rose Lavelle quickly rose as the team’s matchmaker in the first half, tallying two assists in the opening 10 minutes. In the fifth minute, she sliced a pass between two Costa Rican defenders, threading it to the feet of Carli Lloyd, where the captain chipped in the opening goal with her first touch of the game.
Minutes later, Lavelle served up another clinical pass, this time cutting into the box to feed Morgan Brian wide. The midfielder hammered home a shot to the right post, giving the United States a 2-0 lead, notching her eighth career goal in her hometown.
“It was something that we talked a lot about is to start the game with intensity,” Andonovski said. “We wanted to start up a pace and rhythm that we thought the opponent would not be able to follow.”
Although the team is now under a new coach, Andonovski hasn’t had much time to completely shake up the roster. Sunday’s match, however, offered a look at the potential future of the defense. Defenders Midge Purce and Alana Cook both earned their first caps with the senior national team against Costa Rica, filling out the right side of the backline.
A standout with the Portland Thorns during the past two seasons, Purce took full advantage of the opportunity to make a positive impression. Although the Costa Rican attack is far from a top tier challenge for the Americans, Purce shut down attackers clinically on the defensive end while stretching the right flank on the attack. She caused the sixth and final goal of the game, crossing a ball into the box that was deflected for an own goal.
“We need players like that stepping up,” keeper Ashlyn Harris said. “We need our youth players to come in and be impact players. It’s not easy with this group, with this type of pressure. Stakes are really high right now and it’s a new coach and anything could happen and it’s a new opportunity for everyone.”
While Costa Rica retained to the defensive for most of the match, Cook was called upon considerably less at centerback. But she still managed to show flashes of potential throughout the match, sending a header only inches wide of goal in the first half off a corner kick. When a Costa Rican attacker slipped behind her in transition in the second half, Cook flew back to overtake her, slicing the ball away before a shot could be taken.
Even for previously capped players, Andonovski’s arrival turned otherwise throw-away friendlies into vital chances to make the case for their place on the roster. That became evident when Lynn Williams subbed in for Lloyd at the half and immediately set to work goal hunting.
She netted a goal only minutes later, taking a ball from Heath into the box and stutter stepping before slotting the ball past the keeper in the 50th minute. Williams added a second in the 68th minute, collecting a header from North Carolina Courage teammate Jessica McDonald in the box for a clean finish for the team’s fifth goal.
“Lynn Williams did what she was asked to do,” Andonovski said. “Come off the bench, provide a spark, spread the lines for us and ultimately do what every nine is expected to do — score goals. She checked all the boxes. It’s very comforting to see that she’s doing well in this environment.”
It was a somewhat sloppy affair on the finishing end for the Americans, who took 17 shots and missed a handful of golden opportunities. But the U.S. never stepped off the gas, keeping a relentless pace until the final whistle. Forward Christen Press summed that up best in the 56th minute, breaking down in laughter when she muffed a point blank shot, then straightening to immediately pounce on the ball and net the team’s fourth goal of the night.
With a final scoreline of 6-0, the United States clinched its 20th win of 2019, capping off the year with a World Cup and only a single loss to its name.