The U.S. Women’s National Team recorded two victories out of two in its latest set of friendlies against China, but it was hardly business as usual.
The Chinese presented one of the tougher defenses the USWNT has come up against in recent friendlies, and the narrow victories showed just that. The Americans will take confidence from the fact that they were still able to break down China’s defensive block, but there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of individual and collective performances.
The U.S. midfield and defense struggled at different periods during the pair of friendlies. The first match saw a midfield that had difficulty creating opportunities, while the second saw a shaky defense that allowed China to be dangerous at times.
Here is a closer look at how each player fared this month:
Alyssa Naeher (B+)
Playing only the first match, the USWNT’s usual choice in goal had little to do, though she managed an important save to keep the game even in the first half.
Ashlyn Harris (B)
The Orlando Pride goalkeeper showed that she was a capable backup to Naeher, playing the full 90 minutes of the second match. She was mostly blameless on China’s goal, and made a few important saves during the match to help her side to victory.
Sofia Huerta (C)
The right back got a majority of the minutes at the position in the absence of Jill Ellis’s other options through injury. She demonstrated her usual ability to get forward, but the natural attacker could still improve her defensive skills.
Merritt Mathias (N/A)
The NC Courage player received her first cap for the national team, but only played 13 minutes at the end of Tuesday night’s match.
Becky Sauerbrunn (B-)
The co-captain was given a different role in the first match, starting at right back. The position was clearly not her best, and switches to left back after a half hour and then to her original center back midway through the second half were much more suited to her skillset. The second match saw more consistency from Sauerbrunn.
Abby Dahlkemper (B)
Dahlkemper got the first 66 minutes of the first match before missing the second with a small injury, and put in a solid shift partnered with Tierna Davidson.
Tierna Davidson (C-)
Playing all 180 minutes of the set of friendlies, Davidson was consistent in the first one, but struggled on Tuesday. She was exposed frequently when China mustered up a few counterattacks, including the one that led to their goal.
Crystal Dunn (A)
The versatile player was asked to do quite a bit in both matches against China. Playing left back, right back, and right wing in just the first match, Dunn handled all of that seemingly with ease, providing the one bright spot in attack on a day where the U.S. was struggling to do so. The second match saw her play only left back, a position she plays well despite playing in attack for the NC Courage.
Julie Ertz (B)
Making her return to the team after missing the April friendlies with a minor injury, Ertz proved why Ellis finds it hard to drop her. She struggled a bit in the first match, but made up for it with a solid performance in the second.
Allie Long (C)
Instead of playing as Ertz’s backup, Long got a chance to play further up the pitch in the second halves of both matches. Neither performance was particularly notable, which cannot be a positive a few months from World Cup qualifying.
McCall Zerboni (B)
Playing the entirety of the first match, Zerboni was one of the better U.S. players on the field that night. She was one of the more active players in the attack, forcing turnovers in the first half, and enjoyed a quiet second half playing more defensively.
Samantha Mewis (A-)
Also making her return to the national team after a seven-month absence, Mewis was able to show off her soccer brain once again. The U.S. midfield improved upon her introduction in the second half of the first match, and her clever pass to Christen Press was the second-to-last step in Megan Rapinoe’s goal on Tuesday.
Morgan Brian (C-)
Brian played only Tuesday’s first half, though hardly factored into the motions of the midfield. She was visibly rusty, having played inconsistently for club and country over the last six months, making it easy for Ellis to take her off at halftime.
Lindsey Horan (B-)
The versatile midfielder played little more than an hour over the course of the two games, providing mixed results. She found it difficult to break down the Chinese defense in the first match, but improved as a substitute on Tuesday.
Rose Lavelle (N/A)
Lavelle made her long awaited return to the national team, but with only 25 minutes in her third match in nine months, there was not a lot to see.
Savannah McCaskill (C)
The Sky Blue player got her first U.S. start in the first match against China, starting on Alex Morgan’s right in the place of Mallory Pugh. The performance, though, only lasted 45 minutes, as she was frequently isolated on the right wing, being tasked with a job that may not suit her.
Christen Press (A)
The forward was possibly the only player that strengthened her case to be a starter for the U.S., especially on Tuesday. On the day Press earned her 100th cap, she collected two assists and was dominant on the right side of the attack, helping her teammates in the process.
Alex Morgan (B+)
It was a fairly quiet pair of matches for Morgan, though not for lack of trying. Following a quiet first half on Thursday, the forward eventually got her goal in the second half and added plenty of opportunities on Tuesday. Additionally, she got minutes as a left forward in the first match, performing well in a short 23 minute period.
Carli Lloyd (C)
In an attempt to find her place on the roster, Ellis has been trying the co-captain as a center forward off the bench. However, Lloyd does not compare to Morgan, and was fairly inactive in her hour on the field.
Megan Rapinoe (A)
As has been the case for the last year and change, Rapinoe continues to record goals and assists, and did so against China. Her well placed freekick found Morgan’s head for Thursday’s lone goal, and she skillfully finished Press’s cross from an angle to open up the scoring on Tuesday.
Tobin Heath (B)
Heath also marked her first match for the national team since September, playing 26 minutes on Tuesday. She managed to score a goal in the process, handling Press’s ball very well while possibly beginning to carve out a spot for her in the starting lineup.