CARY, N.C. -- Hope Solo was denied the United States women's national team's all-time record for shutouts Wednesday night as she gave up a penalty goal in the USA's flattering 4-1 friendly win over Switzerland. Megan Rapinoe scored early on and Carli Lloyd won the game with a penalty in the second half. Christen Press also scored on a long volley and fellow USA star Abby Wambach converted a second penalty.
Prior to the game, head coach Jill Ellis had expressed the hope that the Americans could circulate the ball better and produce more chances as they ready themselves for the Women's World Cup qualifiers in October. But they found that tough against the Swiss, who pressed high and ably clogged the spaces all over the field.
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"We played good up-tempo soccer, some really good spurts," said Ellis after the match. "Overall I was very pleased with the effort and the result."
On a hot and humid night in front of a 9,992 sellout attendance, an entertaining and pacey game was mostly fought in the midfield as both teams struggled to reach their strikers. Switzerland had never played the USA before but it took just three minutes for its players to understand what they were up against. Rapinoe, who was tried out as an advanced central playmaker in the first half, won the ball and played in Sydney Leroux up the left flank. Leroux returned the ball to Rapinoe at the edge of the box and her shot was deflected and beat Gaelle Thalmann.
The Americans produced preciously few chances for the remainder of the half, and the deployment of three roaming strikers in Leroux, Alex Morgan and Press didn't have the desired effect of opening up more room in the final third. Other than strong Morgan and Lauren Holiday shots that provoked good saves from Thalmann, the first half yielded little, even if the Americans managed to put all eight of their shots on target. Switzerland, however, didn't produce much either and didn't forge a real chance until the 43rd minute.
The second half brought more attacking action as the USA shifted to its old 4-4-2 formation. Carli Lloyd sent a rocket at substitute goalkeeper Stenia Michel right after kick-off but she saved alertly. The Swiss grew sharper and more venomous in their quick counterattacks, requiring some composed interventions by the cohesive American backline.
In the 56th minute, on a nice, quick American counterattack, Wambach, a halftime sub, dispatched Rapinoe down the left. Her cross was blocked by Fabienne Humm's hand in the Swiss box and referee Katja Koroleva pointed to the penalty spot. Lloyd coolly converted the kick.
The Americans would be victimized by much the same kind of call in the 70th minute, however, when a cross struck Rapinoe in the arm in her own box. Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic converted the kick, sending Solo the wrong way, with Switzerland's only shot on goal of the night. The American goalkeeper would have to wait at least another game to claim Briana Scurry's record.
As they got winded late on in the game, the Swiss would concede twice more. That skewed the final score to look like they hadn't given the Americans as much of a match as they really had. For in truth, the game was a close one.
Nevertheless, Press chested down a Swiss turnover in their own third and scored on a looping volley from some 25 yards in the 77th minute. Some 10 minutes later, Wambach was bowled over -- or went down lightly, depending on your vantage point -- and earned a penalty which she converted herself, just about slipping it by Michel.
Five games into Ellis's tenure, the USA is still undefeated with three wins and two ties. Two games remain until October's qualifiers, and the Americans still have a few things to get right.
"Even though it was a short trip for us, we'd been working on some things and I felt we started to really find the momentum in the second half," said Lloyd after the win over Switzerland. "It was fun, we were pinging it around, finding some space."
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