A crowd of 19,066 filled University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday– a record for women’s soccer in Arizona- and the United States won the penultimate match of its victory tour, 2-0 over the People’s Republic of China. There was no more shining moment than in the 78th minute, when Abby Wambach subbed in for Carli Lloyd, and the heroine of the World Cup placed the captain’s band on the sport’s all-time-leading scorer, who walks off into the sunset after Wednesday’s tour finale in New Orleans, also versus China.
To open the scoring, Crystal Dunn slammed home a ball that was ricocheted off two Chinese defenders in the 39th minute. It was the fourth career goal for the 23-year-old defender. One of the final players cut from the World Cup team, Dunn led the NWSL in scoring this season with 15 goals for the Washington Spirit in 20 games.
“Alex (Morgan) made a really great run with the cross, and it got deflected and fell to my feet, and I said ‘Shoot it as hard as I can,’” Dunn said. “I got it on frame, and I’m excited about it.”
A minute after entering the match, Christen Press scored in the 81st, as the U.S. took a 2-0 lead. Press, who turns 27 later this month, scored a hat trick three days earlier versus Trinidad and Tobago at San Antonio.
The win improves the U.S. to 20-1-4 in 2015, with its lone loss being the first match, 2-0, Feb. 8 at France. Since that day in Lorient, the U.S. has scored 74 times and allowed only nine. The national team also betters itself to 34-8-13 in matches versus China – a team it last beat 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, June 26 in Ottawa on a Lloyd goal.
“These are the games we need, when teams are highly organized and competitive,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “It’s highly challenging for us. Right now, we’re looking at the younger players and how they responded.”
Morgan had the first scoring opportunity in the third minute, when Chinese goalkeeper Zhao Lina dived to prevent her from shooting. Also in the early stages, Lloyd’s free kick in the fourth minute sailed over the net, while headers from Morgan and Dunn also ended up in that location. Zhao made four saves on the night, and American Alyssa Naeher collected three. The event was also a homecoming for native Arizonans and Sereno alumna Sydney Leroux (Scottsdale) and Julie Johnston (Mesa), and there was even a large banner draped over an entire section depicting Johnston on the backdrop of the Arizona state flag.
“Normally, I’m pretty fine, but I was a little nervous because we want to put a good show on for the hometown,” Johnston said. “A little more nervous than usual, but in the end, it’s a sport that I love to play.”
Sunday was the first-career call up for midfielder Danielle Colaprico and midfielder Rose Lavelle, who is a junior at the University of Wisconsin and one of two collegiate players on the roster, along with Virginia’s Emily Sonnett. Sonnett entered in the 79th minute, at the same time as Wambach and Press. The final game will be at 6 p.m. MT Wednesday from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, televised on FOX Sports 1.