By CAITLIN MURRAY
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Thursday was the last chance for U.S. Women’s National Team players to show coach Jill Ellis they should be included on next month’s World Cup qualifying roster. Again, they made Ellis’ job very difficult.
It was only half as good as their previous rout of Mexico a few days earlier, but a 4-0 win on a chilly Thursday evening from four different goal-scorers surely gave Ellis plenty to think about.
“I’m going to go back and talk to the staff, but I think we got some answers,” Ellis said after the match. “Listen, this is a tough, tough job. That’s a fantastic group of 28 players we have here, so, they’ve made it hard.”
But just as with Saturday’s 8-0 rout of Mexico, it wasn’t a perfect showing. The Americans looked disjointed at times and struggled with possession up the field. Again, Mexican errors turned into the USWNT’s early goals.
Amy Rodriguez opened scoring in the 9th minute, set up by Megan Rapinoe pressure. Rapinoe rushed defender Stephany Mayor, who made a desperate back pass that Rodriguez ran onto for the tap in past goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago.
In the 37th minute, a Meghan Klingenberg cross was headed away by defender Monica Alvarado to the feet of Rapinoe, who fired a left-footed volley that deflected off Mexican defenders and in.
“We weren’t necessarily having possession up the field,” Rapinoe said. “I don’t think any of us up there were getting the ball that much. When we did break them down a bit, we did find some good spaces and had some combinations that were pretty dangerous in there.”
If Rapinoe didn’t have a spot for World Cup qualifiers yet, she made a strong case for it Thursday. Rapinoe had a hand in three goals on the night, from both the middle and out wide.
For the second time under Ellis, Rapinoe started centrally as a playmaker in a 4-3-3. But Ellis, keen to emphasize overlapping runs and switching positions, moved Rapinoe out wide in the middle of the first half.
“I like it. I’m getting more comfortable and I am learning,” Rapinoe said of starting centrally in a playmaker role. “I do like that though. If we play the way we want to play, I’ll be effective in there. I think we need to keep possession better and keep possession higher up the field.”
In the 43rd minute, in one of the nicer goals of the night, Rapinoe sent a long diagonal through ball from the flank to Tobin Heath, who ran at Santiago one-on-one and chipped it in.
Alex Morgan capped off scoring in the 79th minute, heading in a Heather O’Reilly cross.
“We’re dangerous when we get in transition and when we push the ball around,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a lot of potent weapons up front. It’s good for confidence and it’s hard for teams to focus on one player with us right now.”
The USWNT out-shot Mexico, 16-4, with seven shots on goal to Mexico’s one.
The USWNT had some uncharacteristic breakdowns in the back field against a Mexican team that provided precious little offensive pressure.
Mexico’s Veronica Perez nearly scored on an open net in the 55th minute after a couple USWNT miscues. Becky Sauerbrunn mishandled a routine pass, forcing Hope Solo out of net to the corner of the 18-yard box to collect. Solo’s pass back to Sauerbrunn was off, finding Perez instead, but Sauerbrunn stepped in at the last moment to block the shot.
Thursday’s win was the USWNT’s final friendly before World Cup qualifiers next month across the U.S. The Americans drew a group with Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Guatemala.
Ellis brought 28 players to face Mexico in this two-game friendly series, but will need to cut her roster to 20 for World Cup qualifying. She will bring 23 players to the World Cup tournament next summer.
“Jill’s job in naming this 20-person roster is going to be very difficult,” said Abby Wambach, who had an open chance in the second half that sailed just over the crossbar. “Many players scored today. Many players scored the other day. We attacked in a lot of different ways.”
Mexico is considered the second-best team behind the USWNT in that CONCACAF qualifying competition, making the qualifying campaign appear to be a relatively easy prospect for the Americans.
The USWNT hasn’t forgotten about 2010, though. Mexico upset the U.S. women during qualifiers for the 2011 World Cup, forcing the USWNT into a second-leg fight against Italy. Given the results of this two-game friendly series against Mexico, however, that repeat scenario seems even less likely than it had in 2010. It was Mexico’s only win over the U.S. in 30 meetings.
The USWNT starts its World Cup qualifying run against Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 15 in Kansas City.
Here are the match highlights: