Ashley Hatch celebrates a goal during the match between New Zealand and the United States. Photo / photosport.nz
United States 5
Football Ferns 0
Just after halftime at Eden Park on Saturday, a young fan made a loud plea to the match official.
“Ref – give them a red card – make it interesting” he yelled from the terraces, as Football Ferns captain Ali Riley was bundled over in his own penalty area.
His frustrations perfectly summed up the contest, as the United States prevailed in another one-sided procession, eventually winning 5-0 and only denied a few more by some fine goalkeeping.
The Ferns huffed and puffed, ran a lot, tackled when they could and hardly saw the ball. The Americans basically did what they wanted, lifting through the gears when required and producing typically flowing football.
American midfielder Rose Lavelle was again a point of difference with her vision and passing, and scored twice with late runs into the penalty area.
The biggest disappointment from a New Zealand point of view were the goals conceded. Even if they were severely overmatched – and coming off an exhausting match on Wednesday – the defending was horribly loose and the kind of thing that could prove fatal at the World Cup.
It was that bad, with a couple of goals that schoolgirl teams would be disappointed to concede.
On the bright side, the Ferns managed to construct a little more going forward and showed more composure on the ball, especially in the first half, without ever threatening the American goal. Coach Jitka Klimkova also got to see some young players, with debutants Deven Jackson and Tayla O’Brien getting time in the second half.
The United States had a reshuffled lineup, with seven changes to their starting XI. Star striker Alex Morgan was a late withdrawal, replaced by Ashley Hatch. Klimkova made three alterations, with Liv Chance switched to central midfield and Paige Satchell, Liz Anton and Ally Green brought in.
It was a festival atmosphere from the start, with the 12,721 crowd cheering every Ferns pass, every tackle, every little positive moment, no matter how significant. There was huge applause when they won at an early corner, then for a great covering tackle by Green, after the United States threatened a breakaway.
The Ferns were happy to play a high line and it worked early, as they pressed with intensity.
After a bright start, the first American goal was a dagger. A neat flick exposed the center backs, and fullback Green was caught napping, allowing her winger a clear run, before Hatch bundled the cross past Erin Nayler.
The Americans should have gone further ahead a few minutes later, but were denied by a fine reflex stop by Nayler, after a mix-up between Riley and Green led to Mallory Swanson setting up Ashley Sanchez.
Green was then replaced on the half hour by Ashleigh Ward, with Anton switching flanks to the right.
After Ward rode her luck – with a rugby-style tackle on the edge of the area – Lavelle extended the lead, with a volleyed strike at the far post. It was a clever run – and a neat finish – but she was left completely free .
Klimkova made two changes at halftime, with Jackson (Satchell) and Phoenix midfielder Grace Wisnewski (Grace Jale) brought on
Hatch missed a gilt-edged opportunity just after the interval – somehow prodding the ball wide when it looked easier to score – before Swanson scored the softest goal of the match, placing home from 10 metres, after the Ferns couldn’t deal with a cross . It was a calamity of errors. Substitute Emily Fox easily beat two defenders on the left, before three others couldn’t intervene.
The fourth and fifth goals were almost as bad. A simple long ball over the top released Lynn Williams, who found an unmarked Lavelle to force home, then Taylor Kornieck rose unchallenged from a corner to head in from close range.
O’Brien was the second domestic-based player to be introduced late on, though it was hard to make an impact.
Two brilliant Nayler saves prevented further scoreboard damage, while Williams dragged a shot just wide of the far post.
United States 5 (Ashley Hatch 22, Rose Lavelle 39, 74, Mallory Swanson 53, Taylor Kornieck 80)
Football Ferns 0