By Gary R. Blockus | Sept. 16, 2017, 1:03 a.m. (ET)
Julie Ertz celebrates her second goal in the first half against New Zealand at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park on Sept. 15, 2017 in Commerce City, Colo.

 

Julie Ertz scored a pair of first-half goals as the U.S. women’s national soccer team kicked off a two-game friendly series against New Zealand with a 3-1 win at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on Friday in Commerce City, Colorado.

Ertz put the U.S. on top 1-0 in the 16th minute on a one-timer from in tight on New Zealand goalie Erin Naylor; she scored a ball sent directly to her feet from a beautiful header by Lindsey Horan. Ertz, who picked up her 52nd cap Friday, missed putting the U.S. ahead five minutes earlier when her bicycle kick went off the top of the net.

Eight minutes later, Ertz made it 2-0. Mallory Pugh sent a long cross from near the right flag to Megan Rapinoe on the far side of the goal, who headed a ball off the left post to draw Naylor, leaving the net open for Ertz to plant a ball between the posts on the rebound.

Hannah Wilkinson gave New Zealand life with a goal in the 75th minute, cutting the score to 2-1 by converting a lead pass from Ali Riley, a former college teammate of U.S. player Kelley O’Hara, who picked up her 100th cap.

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The new breath proved short-lived after Alex Morgan buried another U.S. goal just four minutes later to make it 3-1. Morgan took a cross from defender Sofia Huerta in the left side of the box, beating a defender and then the goalie. It was the 75th career strike for Morgan, tying her with Cindy Parlow for seventh all-time in program history.

Huerta entered the game as a substitute, making her U.S. women’s national team debut. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Huerta previously played for the Mexican U-20 team. Her request for a one-time switch was just granted this week.

The two teams will square off again in a second friendly at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The U.S. is 13-1-1 all-time against New Zealand.

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.