By now it should be obvious that these first two games of the World Cup victory tour weren't meant to be analyzed with any kind of depth. They were supposed to be light and fluffy, something fun to chew on but with little to no nutritional value.
Light and fluffy they were, despite a torrential downpour that interrupted this second game against Costa Rica. Lightning forked through Chattanooga, calling for a lengthy delay that made it seem like the game might get canceled. But eventually the lightning abated, the crowds remained in good spirits, and the teams made an energetic go of the remainder of their time.
As before, the United States kept Costa Rica in their own defensive third most of the time. Costa Rica managed to break free more in the second half, but it was the USWNT's show pretty much from start to finish.
Here are three thoughts from the match:
1. Heather O'Reilly should definitely see action against Australia and Brazil
She got familiar with benches all over Canada during the World Cup, but finally got to put her foot on the gas in these two games. It's not so much about O'Reilly racking up four goals in two games, although that was certainly a note to Coach Ellis that she might have neglected a potent offensive resource, but that O'Reilly demonstrated her pace and usefulness on the flank. When you need a game to use the full width of the pitch, there's no one better than Heather O'Reilly to help you stretch things out.
2. Costa Rica might have been overpowered, but they still had the ability to make the United States pay for their mistakes
Costa Rica scored one each on Hope Solo and Alyssa Naeher, the first one a tap in on a wide open net near the end of the first half from Cristin Granados as teammate Carolina Venegas' ball slipped through the US defense, with Solo too far away to course correct and cover for Whitney Engen. The second one was a ball over the top, catching the US' very high back line off guard. Karla Villalobos ran on and finished cleanly past Naeher.
You could argue that the US would not make these errors were the stakes higher. The back line would certainly not be pressing so high against, say, Germany. But the fact is they did make mistakes, which is fine in a game designed to be purely about fun. It says more about Costa Rica that they pounced and capitalized where they could.
Once the United States put Costa Rica down a 6-0 hole in about thirty minutes, they could have bunkered and tried to mitigate their damages, but they continued looking for weaknesses and found them. Those goals weren't a consolation—they were a reward for keeping their heads up and continuing to play their game, especially without critical players like Shirley Cruz and Raquel Rodriguez available.
3. As fun as it was to see players scoring by the handful, it's a relief everyone made it out uninjured with NWSL playoffs still on the horizon
With a combined attendance of over 60,000 for both games, US Soccer got paid, the World Cup players got celebrated, and fans got to hang a bell on their World Cup memories. Now it's back to business with their NWSL club teams this weekend. Alex Morgan might have even got the chance to shake off some rust, playing her first minutes since she had minor knee surgery in July, which is good news for the Portland Thorns.
The USWNT victory tour continues September 17 with the first of two games against Australia. Australia will certainly be more of a challenge, especially with players like Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord still in form from club play. Lineups will probably contour more closely to what we saw during the World Cup, but hopefully Ellis will stick to her plan to experiment a little in preparation for the Olympics.