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Lackluster USA Still Manages to Defeat Ireland 3-0

The United States looked unremarkable but still found a way to score.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On a sunny day in San Jose, it wasn’t so much what Ireland did as it was what the United States failed to do. They won 3-0 over #31 ranked Republic of Ireland, who were missing five starters from their usual lineup. They could have won with a score twice that.

The US got off to a bland start, unable to score or put many balls on frame for most of the first half. Then Abby Wambach scored two quick goals in the 42’ and the 44’. The first came with a footnote: an Ireland defender took a hard ball to the face and went down, and goalkeeper Niamh Reid-Burke perhaps naively stopped to check on her. Unfortunately, the ref’s whistle stayed silent and Wambach slammed the ball home while Ireland were focused on their injured player. The second goal was a classic Wambach header at the far post off service from a cross by Carli Lloyd.

The US went into halftime up 2-0 and came out for the second half with three subs, switching from more of a diamond midfield into a looser configuration that had Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Lauren Holiday, and Christen Press in the middle. Press, arguably at her most valuable when played as a forward, switched from right mid to left mid and did manage to get some looks on goal and generate some attack through the center.

Julie Johnston got the third goal in the 54’ off a fantastic leaping kick, touching the ball near post past the keeper from a corner kick by Lauren Holiday.

The second half waned in action again, sometimes seeing sporadic interplay around Ireland’s 18-yard box, but not generating many solid threats. The US would attempt to assemble an attack, lose possession, and restart from the back, only to plod through the whole sequence again a few minutes later. In the end the United States managed 29 shots and scored three goals for a 10.3% conversion rate – not World Cup standard by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps that criticism is unfair considering Ireland were never meant to be a World-Cup caliber test, but a feel-good game to help hype the United States and send the team off to Canada on a high. Is it too farfetched to say that perhaps Jill Ellis had her team play down to their opponents’ ability instead of giving 110% in a cushy friendly? Or is that a rather patronizing excuse for a lackluster performance that found itself still having to channel through Abby Wambach instead of Syd Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, neither of whom impressed on the day?

Either way, it was a forgettable team performance.

This game is the first in a series of three send-off games for the USWNT before they head to Canada for the Women’s World Cup. The United States next play Mexico May 17 at StubHub Center, then South Korea May 30 at Red Bull Arena. They open World Cup group play against Australia June 8.

Player rankings:

Amy Rodriguez: 4

Limited service meant limited chances and the ones she did have, she didn’t put away.

Abby Wambach: 7

Despite a slow start with some fizzed chances, eventually she recalibrated and created danger in front of the goal.

Sydney Leroux: 3

Mostly disappeared into the match.

Megan Rapinoe: 6

Did some hard work in the first half, like tracking all the way back to the defensive third to help reset the play, and created some early pressure.

Carli Lloyd: 4

Popped up here and there, like when she skied a shot over the bar or assisted Wambach's goal, but a quiet game for Lloyd.

Lauren Holiday: 4

Bad game for Holiday, whether it was not quite managing to find teammates or corner kicks going astray.

Christen Press: 6

Did her best to create connectivity whether on the left or right and also managed a few looks at the goal.

Morgan Brian: 5

Got shuffled around the midfield in the second half but not to much effect.

Shannon Boxx: 4

Boxx didn't have much time to make an impression or really get in the game.

Heather O’Reilly: 6

Fought hard once she was subbed in, tried to connect with Wambach and Leroux.

Kelley O’Hara: 5

For once she was subbed in with enough time left to get her game legs under her, but didn’t get too much going up the flank.

Julie Johnston: 7

Like Sauerbrunn, kept the middle locked down, plus a ratings bump for flying in and notching her third international goal.

Becky Sauerbrunn: 6

Didn’t have much to do but keep it locked down, which she did in her usual professional manner. Cut out an Ireland ball and made a decent run up the middle in the 20’.

Lori Chalupny: 4

Subbed on for Ali Krieger at the half. Some crosses, but not much to say here.

Ali Krieger: 5

Made a few runs, but not much service from the right flank.

Meghan Klingenberg: 5

Decently involved in the attack, but not so much that there was a noticeable effect after her substitution.

Hope Solo: N/A

It’s slightly unfair to rank a goalkeeper who wasn’t called upon to do much of anything.

Lineup: Hope Solo, Ali Krieger (Lori Chalpuny, 46'), Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg (O'Hara, 61'), Christen Press, Lauren Holiday (Heather O'Reilly, 61'), Carli Lloyd (Shannon Boxx, 78'), Megan Rapinoe (Morgan Brian, 46'), Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez (Sydney Leroux, 46').