In the first of a pair of friendly matches this week, the United States women's national team defeated France, 1-0, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, Saturday night, giving Jill Ellis her first victory as permanent head coach.
Sydney Leroux scored the game's opening goal, France wasted a couple of opportunities in the first half and the final 45 minutes were mostly nondescript as both teams struggled to get into rhythm.
And that’s the game. The #USWNT and Jill Ellis can thank Sydney Leroux for again giving the Americans a positive result. Sloppy match.— Caitlin Murray (@wosocait) June 15, 2014
While it wasn't always pretty, though, Hope Solo was able to enter the record books with another shutout, per TheSoccerDesk.com's Sarah Gehrke:
Leroux got the scoring started in the 21st minute, thanks to an assist from Christen Press and some underwhelming defending from France.
The 25-year-old Press played a wonderful chip over the defense to Leroux, who controlled the ball, outmuscled a pair of defenders in the box and calmly slotted it home. While it was a nice finish, the first French defender to the ball failed at an attempted clearance and the second was nutmegged.
SoccerByIves.net's Caitlin Murray put it simply:
Leroux goal! No reason for France to allow that. They had numbers and the 1v1 was just horrible from the two defenders she went through.— Caitlin Murray (@wosocait) June 15, 2014
Still, a goal is a goal, and the Yanks were the only ones able to find the back of the net in the first half. While they controlled a majority of the possession, though, France was able to create some opportunities on the counter-attack.
In the 31st minute, Eugenie Le Sommer beat Solo but hit the post. In the 41st minute, Louisa Necib found herself open after a beautiful cross, but sent her shot flying over the goal.
At halftime, the U.S. Twitter feed summarized the action:
USA had a bit more possession. Six shots each. France had more quality chances. USA with six CKs to zero. USA has the game's lone goal.— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) June 15, 2014
Ellis didn't make any subs out of the locker room, but when Tobin Heath went down, the head coach turned to Alex Morgan in the 49th minute.
As the team's Twitter feed noted, it was the first international action for America's favorite striker in over seven months:
And here comes Baby Horse. 49th minute sub for Heath. First match since Nov. 10, 2013, when she played 23 mins vs. BRA.— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) June 15, 2014
Much of the second half featured mostly sloppy play from each team, as they struggled to string together passes and create scoring opportunities. Of course, the wet pitch—the match was delayed for rain—likely had something to do with that.
France pushed forward and had a couple decent looks on goal in the final minutes, but the Americans remained strong defensively to close out the gritty win.
How would you grade the USA's overall performance?
While the men are busy in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, the women have their sights set on World Cup qualification in October. There is obviously no worry that the United States, runners-up from 2011, will qualify for Canada, but it's clear that Ellis is still trying to find the right way to fit together her pieces.
Although it was a win, Saturday's performance clearly showed a lot of rust for the Americans, who recently struggled at the Algarve Cup.
They'll get a chance to further clean things up with a rematch against France at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, Thursday.