It seemed destined to become a frustrating night for the USWNT in Rio Tinto as it simply couldn’t find a way to break through China’s resolute defense on Thursday. That is until Megan Rapinoe placed a pinpoint free-kick in a perfect position for Alex Morgan to head home early in the second half to make sure that the USA came away with a narrow win that came exactly 365 days before the start of the Women’s World Cup in 2019.
China came close to opening the scoring in the 34th minute when the ball was slipped past a sleeping U.S. defense to Li Ying, who found herself one-on-one with Alyssa Naeher. Ying attempted to curl the ball past Naeher but the U.S. keeper dove left and was able to corral the shot in the center of her goal and keep China off the scoresheet.
Outside of those two opportunities, the rest of the night amounted to a lot of wasted runs and misplaced balls in the box by both teams. The USWNT never really seemed to find a rhythm in attack, even as Jill Ellis brought on a glut of attack-minded subs in Sofia Huerta, Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez. In fact, this seemed to embolden China, as it pushed forward late in search of an equalizer that would never come.
Both teams will likely look to shake some of the rust off with a rematch set for Tuesday in Cleveland.