Vlatko Andonovski entered Saturday’s friendly against Australia with two main goals: to test inexperienced players and to give the entire team the chance to face a world-class opponent in a hostile environment.
The USWNT and their coach’s mission against the Matildas was completely accomplished, as they won 3-0 in a match that heralded the start of a new era after the performance. disappointing at this summer Olympics in Japan.
The scoreline was perhaps quite stark for the hosts, who saw a number of good opportunities squandered or saved by Casey Murphy, who excelled in his first US cap.
Ashley Hatch scored her first national team goal in the first minute of the game, with Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan scoring additional goals in the second half.
Although Australia had more possession and shot on target, the USWNT was far more ruthless and deserved to win the first of two friendlies against Australia this month.
Murphy shines in the first hat
Alyssa Naeher has been a starting goalkeeper for the USWNT for several years but the picture behind her remains unresolved. Casey Murphy took the opportunity to make her claim on Saturday, and her performance ensures that she will join the conversation in the future.
The OL Reign keeper made a series of brilliant saves and displayed good command in her box, making the most of a game where the USWNT let in eight unusually high shots on target. .
“She’s grown up. She’s given us confidence,” Andonovski said of Murphy after the game.
At 6-1, Murphy has an impressive frame and her NWSL form shows she can make the switch to the international game. Against Matildas, she showed all her abilities as well as a mentality that she would not be disturbed by a big occasion.
“I think she’s great for the team, great for the backline,” Andonovski added. “I feel comfortable saying that although this is the first hat for Casey, it will be one of many.”
USWNT got the test he wanted
It’s rare for the USWNT to play a high-quality opponent on the road in front of a hostile crowd. In fact, the last match that can be described as such happened almost three years ago, when the US lost to France on the eve of 2019.
But the USWNT clashed with an Australian team in the game on Saturday, backed by a crowd of 36,109 – an independent record for a Matildas game in Australia.
Tony Gustavsson’s team controlled the first half and could have taken the lead if they were more clinical and avoided the defensive blunder that cost them Hatch’s early opener.
These have been invaluable experiences for team building towards the 2023 World Cup – when the USWNT could very well face hostile mobs once again should they face Australia or New Zealand.
Newcomers make an impression
One of Andonovski’s biggest priorities in this month’s friendlies and January’s camp is to identify new faces he believes can feature in his main rotation towards the 2023 World Cup.
For a USWNT team made up of veterans in recent years, Saturday’s lineup is very unusual.
With an average age of 26, the XI is the youngest age for the USWNT since 2018, and it is the first time since 2013, that all 11 US candidates are under 30.
In addition to the aforementioned Murphy, Hatch also made a big impression when he scored early and had an all-round performance within only 3 teams. Sofia Huerta, making her first appearance since 2018, played in an advantageous position at right-back and played a key role in the team’s second goal.
There are also national team debuts for Ashely Sanchez, Morgan Weaver and Bethany Balcer, who could be more involved in a second friendly against the Matildas on Tuesday.