U.S. soccer cruises past Chile, points toward tougher World Cup tests
The goals came in bundles again Sunday, as they often do for the reigning champions.
Not, mind you, at the absurd rate of the U.S. national soccer team’s introduction to this eighth Women’s World Cup last week, but plentiful enough to breeze to another victory — 3-0 against Chile — and secure passage to the round of 16.
Even with seven new starters, the top-ranked Americans scored three times in the first half and, with Carli Lloyd adding to her World Cup legend by striking twice, toyed with another opponent and performed with the ferocity and expertise that has made them favorites for a fourth crown.
If not for Christiane Endler’s second-half masterwork in the Chilean net, the result would have climbed to embarrassing levels again in front of a pro-U.S. crowd of 45,594 at Parc des Princes.
The easy stuff is now out of the way: 16-0 on goals, 65-3 on shots and 25-1 on corner kicks against overmatched, developing programs.
Now comes the more difficult — and perhaps trickier — part.
“We are climbing up a mountain now,” Lloyd said, “and it’s only going to get harder.”
Sweden also remained perfect in Group F with a 5-1 victory over Thailand, setting up a showdown with Jill Ellis’s squad Thursday in Le Havre for first place.
With a superior goal differential — the first tiebreaker — the United States will require only a draw to claim the top spot and make plans for June 24 in Reims, the site of the 13-0 record romp over Thailand.
Winning the group, however, would probably put that team on a path to face impressive France in the quarterfinals.
Ellis, however, dismissed any suggestions of tapping the brakes.
“You can’t overthink this,” she said. “Deciding to come second or manipulating a score, that can be dangerous. You need your team to be in a really good place. Feeling good about your performance is the best confidence-maker out there.”
Right now, the Americans are feeling supremely confident. They put Sunday’s result to rest in the first half as Lloyd sandwiched goals around Julie Ertz’s header. Endler’s gems in the second half — plus U.S. shots off the posts and crossbar, and Lloyd’s missed penalty kick — prevented the match from getting out of hand.
With the way things are rolling, Ellis does not want to introduce any counterintuitive elements into her dominant, fine-tuned machine.
“If we feel good, if we are playing the way we can play, we can win games,” she said. “I don’t think there is plotting out a dream path. The draw is what it is and we navigate what is in front of us.”
Ellis carries so much confidence in the roster, she rested most of the starters from the opener and, in the second half, removed three players who had started both matches. In all, every player, except the two backup goalkeepers, has made an appearance — a remarkable situation after two matches.
“If you want to go far in the tournament,” she said, “you’ve got to have legs.”
As for interrupting the momentum created by the opening-day starters, Ellis added, “I don’t have any concerns about losing any rhythm [and] having those players who didn’t play [Sunday] prepared and hungry and ready to go.”
The rotation is also keeping everyone engaged, she said. “It’s a happy camp.”
Sunday’s starters were happy to show their stuff, particularly Lloyd and left back Tierna Davidson, who, at 20, is the team’s youngest player. She assisted on the last two goals.
Lloyd, who will turn 37 next month, has said repeatedly she does not like coming off the bench. With a dynamic three-player front line ahead of her on the depth chart, she has had to wait her turn.
On Sunday, Alex Morgan (five goals against Thailand), Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath were not needed.
“Nothing has changed. My preparation is the same,” said Lloyd, who set a record by scoring in a sixth consecutive World Cup match, dating from her 2015 heroics in Canada. “Mentally I am stronger than ever. I know what I need to do. I know my ability is there. I know this is the best version of me. I just got to go out there and prove it.”
She did by increasing her World Cup career scoring total to 10 — third in the U.S. record book — with goals in the 11th and 35th minutes.
The first came on a hellacious half-volley from 17 yards that beat Endler with force and accuracy.
Before Lloyd scored again, Ertz made a near-post run on Davidson’s corner kick and, without looking at the target, nodded the ball into the corner.
Later, Davidson floated a corner to Lloyd for a powerful header from seven yards — her 113th in a national team career spanning 14 years.
With Ertz and Lloyd’s ability in the air, Davidson said, “It wasn’t that hard for me.”
The Americans, however, did survive a scare while leading 1-0.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher failed her first test of the tournament, not coming off her line quickly enough to prevent Carla Guerrero from pushing Claudia Soto’s free kick into the net. Guerrero, however, had been a step offside.
Endler, who played at the University of South Florida and is employed by Paris Saint-Germain, put on a spectacular display in the second half. Despite the defeat, she was named player of the match.
Nonetheless, the Americans improved to 19-1-3 all-time in group play, the only defeat coming to Sweden in 2011. Their shutout streak this year reached six matches and seven in the past eight.
Although a potential quarterfinal clash with France looms, Ellis said her only concern is Sweden.
“Beyond that, there is a lot of grass to navigate between now and our potential matchups. France is a fantastic team, but there are a lot of really good teams. That’s why it’s going to be such a great tournament.”
by Michael Errigo in Washington
Final: USA wins, 3-0
The heavily favored Americans dominated Chile from the opening kickoff in Paris to clinch a spot in the round of 16.
Before starting the round of 16, the Americans will play Sweden for the top spot in Group F on Thursday in Le Havre.
82nd minute: Substitution
Emily Sonnett comes on for Abby Dahlkemper, making her World Cup debut. The 25-year-old defender had been the only American field player that hadn’t seen action.
81st minute: Lloyd misses penalty
After a VAR review on a tackle in the box handed the U.S. a penalty kick opportunity, Carli Lloyd send her shot just left of the goal. Another missed opportunity at a hat trick.
72nd minute: Scoring chance
Carli Lloyd comes within inches of a hat trick, as her looping header beats the keeper but hits the top crossbar.
Despite a 3-0 lead for the U.S., Chilean keeper Christiane Endler has been the story of the second half so far. Replays of her acrobatic saves have taken over social, and for good reason. This lead could be six or seven goals without her efforts.
66th minute: Chile’s Endler heroic in goal
Mallory Pugh makes a nice run up the right sideline and whips in a cross. Christen Press got her head on the end of it at the far post but Christiane Endler makes another diving save.
The story of the second half hasn’t been the U.S. attack, which has created a multitude of scoring chances but hasn’t haven’t been able to add to its lead. Endler has done a nice job of handling a heavy workload and keeping this lead at three. Her busy, and impressive, afternoon continues.
59th minute: Substitution
Allie Long comes in to replace Lindsey Horan. The U.S. had one substitution coming out of halftime, with Jessica McDonald replacing goal scorer Julie Ertz.
McDonald nearly scored a goal from distance in the second half, but it hit the bar.
Halftime: USA 3, Chile 0
There have been a lot of similarities so far between this game and Tuesday’s victory over Thailand. The Americans hold an identical 3-0 halftime lead and are dominating the game in a similar fashion. Whether we’re in store for another 10-goal second half remains to be seen.
The Americans have held 68 percent of the possession and have shown aggression on offense, creating eight corner kicks in the first half. Captain Carli Lloyd has been the center of the U.S. attack so far, living in and around the box. Her first goal of the game was a historic one, as she became the first player to score in six straight Women’s World Cup games.
Chile has played a very defensive game, focusing on clearing the ball from their own half instead of creating scoring opportunities. Their best look at goal came in the 22nd minute, when Carla Guerrero scored off a free kick but was caught well offside.
35th minute: Goal, USA
Carli Lloyd gets her second of the afternoon. It came off another corner kick service from Davidson, a ball that found Lloyd in stride right in the middle of the box. Lloyd nodded it down and beat the Chilean keeper easily. The U.S. keeps creating set piece opportunities and so far it has taken advantage of them.
26th minute: Goal, USA
The United States capitalizes on its sixth corner kick of the day, with Julie Ertz coming to the near post and heading it home to double her team’s lead. Tierna Davidson took the corner kick after Mallory Pugh drew it on the end line. Chile argued the call, saying it should have been a goal kick.
11th minute: Goal, USA
Captain Carli Lloyd gets the Americans on the board with a shot from just inside the box. A deep service into the box was headed away by Chile and fell right to Lloyd’s left foot. She fired it by the keeper for her ninth career World Cup goal. The Americans have dominated possession so far and pressed for goal-scoring opportunities, racking up three shots in the first five minutes.
The anthems have been sung and we’re ready for kickoff. Chile and the U.S. are set to faceoff for the third time ever. Chile is in red and the U.S. is in white. Carli Lloyd, who came off the bench against Thailand, is captain for the U.S. today.
Pregame: U.S. makes big lineup changes
The Americans have made seven changes to the starting lineup from their opening match. Veteran Carli Lloyd is among them: She will start and wear the captain’s armband, The Post’s Steven Goff reports. Among those not in the starting lineup: Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.
Pugh and Lavelle, both goal scorers against Thailand, are teammates not just for this French odyssey but with the Washington Spirit, the National Women’s Soccer League organization based outside the nation’s capital. They share an apartment in Rockville, Md., with another player and are roommates on the Paris leg of the group stage. (Read more)
Long before she blistered the nets Tuesday night with five goals, Alex Morgan had taken a leading role in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup with her voice and presence away from the soccer field. She had become one of the strongest and most eloquent advocates for gender equality within both the U.S. program and global circles. As one of the world’s most recognized female athletes, she had appeared in TV spots and magazine covers, both in uniform and bikini. With nearly 10 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram, her life and career are open books. On Tuesday, Morgan’s full attention turned to soccer. (Read more)
Lindsey Horan has returned to what she calls her second home, the city where she launched her professional career almost seven years ago after taking the bold step of forgoing college soccer. (Read more)
Even if the 2019 U.S. Women’s World Cup team is as formidable as its victorious predecessors in 1991, 1999 and 2015, its road to the tournament’s final weekend is likely to be far more difficult, given the rise of women’s soccer in Europe. (Read more)
The players have heard and seen some of the criticism stemming from the 13-0 rout Tuesday in Reims. Immediately afterward, they answered questions about the goalfest and celebrations. For the most part, however, they have blocked out the noise of social media, some having disconnected or reduced their online diet well before the tournament began last week. (Read more)