SBI’s Top 5 USWNT matches of 2013

wambach leroux celebrate

By CAITLIN MURRAY

For the U.S. Women’s National Team, 2013 was a year with few matches of consequence. Other than the annual Algarve Cup invitational tournament, the U.S. women played friendlies this year, mostly at home.

But it marked an important rebuilding year for a squad that won a gold medal at the previous year’s Olympics. Inheriting the world’s best national team at the start of the year, Tom Sermanni spent 2013 dishing out first caps to young players and trying a range of new combinations on the field.

An off-year following back-to-back World Cup and Olympics may be measured by looking ahead into the future, but courtesy of Abby Wambach’s new world record for international goals, there was at least one piece of history to come out of 2013.

Here is a look at SBI’s top five USWNT matches of the year:

5. USWNT vs. Mexico (7-0), Sept. 3 at RFK Stadium

It was a match filled with a lot of firsts that will carry the USWNT into 2014: The first cap of Erika Tymrak, the first cap of Leigh Ann Robinson and the first goal of Morgan Brian, who Sermanni has said will play an important role in the future of the USWNT.

But it’s noteworthy that the U.S. women’s most lopsided result of the year came at the hands of Sydney Leroux while superstar striker Alex Morgan was out with an ankle injury. Leroux scored four goals and reminded the world how deep the USWNT bench really is.

Leroux’s stock has been rising ever since scoring a whopping five goals in a single Olympic qualifier early last year, but September’s match at RFK Stadium served as a benchmark of what to expect from the young striker.

4. USWNT vs. Germany (2-0), March 13 at Estadio Algarve

With a win over Germany and his first trophy in the bag, the Tom Sermanni era of the U.S. Women’s National Team officially began.

After taking over the team in January, the annual Algarve Cup invitational tournament was Sermanni’s first chance to earn the U.S. a title, which he did seemingly with ease. The U.S. came out ahead of a No. 2-ranked German side that was deep in preparations for the upcoming 2013 Euro Cup.

The match was the culmination of an Algarve Cup run that saw breakout performances from defenders Ali Krieger and Kelley O’Hara and showed forward Alex Morgan at her best. Megan Rapinoe had been inexplicably named the player of the tournament, but it was Morgan who shined against the tournament’s toughest opponents, including Germany.

The Algarve Cup is no World Cup, but Sermanni set the tone as the No. 1-ranked U.S. women headed into the difficult task of figuring out how to get even better.

3. USWNT vs. Brazil (4-1), Nov. 10 at Citrus Bowl

The USWNT managed to have plenty of fireworks left for their final match of 2013.

Erika Tymrak scored a world-class first international goal, capping off a whirlwind year for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Rookie of the Year. The special moment was shared by U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of 2013, Lindsay Horan, who got her first assist for the senior squad.

For the U.S. women, big games are usually measured in goals scored, but for the second half, it was Hope Solo’s night. The American goalkeeper made three huge saves to shut down a frustrated Brazil side that desperately fought to get back into the game. It’s rare for Solo to be tested much in domestic friendlies, but despite conceding a first-half goal, she reminded the world why she is the top goalkeeper with lightning-fast decision-making and stretching saves.

With a strong showing on both sides of the ball, the final match of the year put the breadth of the U.S. women’s talent on full display before heading in 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

2. USWNT vs. South Korea (5-0), June 20 at Red Bull Arena

In truth, the match was like many friendlies the U.S. women host: The opponent was outmatched and a crowd of nearly 19,000 got what they were probably expecting with the U.S. scoring five unanswered goals.

But at Red Bull Arena that night, history was made. Abby Wambach became the world leader in international goals scored for both men and women, beating Mia Hamm’s record of 158 international goals.

The moment was perhaps the result of some planning – all of Wambach’s family had been flown in for the game and the NBC Sports broadcast team set clear expectations – but that may only add to the remarkableness of it. After all, Wambach came into the match two goals shy of tying Hamm’s record but left two goals ahead after scoring four in a single night.

Wambach won the FIFA Player of the Year title in 2012, but as a finalist for the award again with her record-breaking 2013, this match against South Korea may have helped make a case for back-to-back honors.

1. USWNT vs. Canada (3-0), June 2 at BMO Field

It was a game of no consequence, but you’d never know it from the way fans went into the match.

Dubbed “The Rematch,” it was the first clash of the North American rivals since the U.S. beat Canada in a very controversial Olympic semifinal last year. That match became an instant classic and only served to deepen the rift between the two sides.

Meeting on Canadian turf, it was a hostile crowd for the Americans, who found an easy victory. Although the first two goals were scored by Alex Morgan – who had memorably scored the last-second winning header in the semifinal – Canadian-born Sydney Leroux’s late stoppage time goal was the highlight of the match.

With heckles of “Judas” from the time she warmed up on the sidelines to a chorus of boos every time she touched the ball during regulation, Leroux responded by rounding the keeper for a world-class goal moments before the final whistle. But it was her celebration that Canadian soccer pundits couldn’t stop talking about the next day – pointing to her U.S. Soccer crest and putting her index finger to her lips, shushing the crowd.

Despite the No. 7-ranked Canadians failing to put up much of a challenge on the field, the stakes for the 2015 World Cup in Canada were raised that much higher.

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What were your top USWNT matches of 2013? Are there any you would add to the list? What were your favorite moments from SBI’s top five matches?

Share your thoughts below.

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12 Responses to SBI’s Top 5 USWNT matches of 2013

  1. Pingback: The top five USWNT matches of 2013 | Octo-Blog

  2. Rob says:

    Mexico friendly was only big in that it showed the vast chasm of difference in skill b/t USA and Mexico. The 3-3 friendly against Germany after the Algarve and the match against Sweden at the Algarve were both bigger, mostly for simply being against top flight competition.

    The Swedish match put the Americans down early and they came back to tie and then adapted their strategy that had not been working against their old coach so as to control the match and guarantee their spot in the final match.

    The rematch against Germany on their home turf in front of 20,000+ Germans after the Algarve final was amazing and everything you want from an international friendly: fast-paced, loads of opportunities, top talent, incredible goals, and tons of emotion from the players (remember Alex “quieting” the crowd after the third goal only to see the Germans come back once more).

    • Edwin in LA says:

      Then someone needs to explain what happened in the recent match of the US vs Mexico at the Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship? What we just couldn’t finish after the US tied it up due to giving up an early goal in the 5th minute to go down? Bad Penalty kicks taking?

      • Joe+G says:

        I won’t give them an easy out, but it does happen to young teams that cruise when they suddenly hit a tough match. They get frustrated. Going right to PKs after 90 for the U17 level really hurts a team like the US that relies on depth and fitness to see them through.

        The pressure on the favorite often hurts them when they get to PKs.

      • Rob says:

        That’s the U-17s. Are you saying that their U-17s are better than their full team? That their U-17s would challenge the full USWNT? Most of their allocated players, being seen daily by NWSL coaches, barely saw playing time and then went and got routed. Maybe in 4 or 8 years Mexico’s team will have closed the gap, but right now they are way behind and as such this game was not one of the top five matches in 2013 for the USWNT.

  3. Rob says:

    As for Leroux’s 4 goal night; we’ve known for a while that she’s got the talent and can outrun and finish almost at will against teams outside of the top 16-20 or so in the world. Frankly I thought the Netherlands game was a much better showcase of her skills than the Mexico rout.

  4. Zach Grady says:

    In other news, after watching the highlights of the Germany game, I forgot how terrible the refereeing was in the draw with Germany.

  5. kernel thai says:

    Something needs to said for home cooking in 2013. Kristie Mewis went home to Boston where she scored her first goal in front of friends and family. Morgan Brian had her second cap in DC where scored her first as well. Her parents, coaches and Virginia team mate where there to celebrate. The it was Tymrak’s turn who went home to Florida where, u guessed it, she scored her first goal. There’s no place like home.

  6. Kristy Thomas says:

    I would switch 1 & 2 but otherwise excellent article as usual!!!!!

  7. AlexH says:

    I loved the USA / Canada match. The heckling that the Canadian fans provided (“ONE, TWO, THREE”, “Judas”, etc.) was priceless as was Leroux showing off the US crest after her goal. It showed that the women’s game could stir the same passion as the men’s. Yes, they still have a long way to go, but it was a step in the right direction.

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