Alex Morgan celebrates with Megan Rapinoe after scoring her 100th international goal in a friendly against Australia on April 4, 2019 in Commerce City, Colo.
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The U.S. women’s soccer team has had many spectacular victories, but few have required them to perform in come-from-behind fashion.
Australia took a 2-1 lead early in the second half of Thursday night's friendly, and the United States quickly answered. And answered. And answered. Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Mallory Pugh all contributed goals in Team USA’s 5-3 victory.
Pugh scored the game-winner on her first touch of the game, only 38 seconds after being subbed in. The forward, a Colorado native, received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. Pugh’s second goal came in stoppage time, with an easy lofted ball over Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
But the rest of the game did not fall that easy for the U.S.
Pugh’s first put the U.S. up 4-2 over Australia and felt like the nail in the coffin. It was the team’s third goal in only 15 minutes and took them from a deficit into a defiant lead, but Australia didn’t fold so easily. The green and gold scored in the 82nd minute to put the U.S. women back on their toes.
“There’s a lot of things to examine and get better at. I would also say as a team, we have to make sure it’s not just our back line, it’s 11 players,” head coach Jill Ellis said.
The United States has only conceded three goals twice in the last two years; in a 3-1 loss to France in January and in a 4-3 victory over Brazil in the 2017 Tournament of Nations. But Team USA has also given up 10 goals over their last six games – three wins, two draws and a loss. Prior to this stretch, the U.S. had nine straight shutouts, outscoring opponents 35-0.
Ultimately, for the world’s top-ranked team, this game serves as preparation for this summer's FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Australia provided the U.S. with plenty of tape to watch.
“That was a good team we just played, to create that many opportunities is great, obviously we have to limit their chances,” Ellis said. “In games like, you have to have mental capacity, and tonight was a really good example of that.”
The five goals from a variety of scorers highlighted Team USA’s ability to attack from all angles. Pugh in particular proved to be a lethal substitution for the final 30 minutes of the match.
“It’s huge having players come off the bench like Mal (Pugh) ... In the World Cup that’s what we’re going to need,” Rapinoe said. “No one player is going to be able to play every single game, every single minute, and we have firepower like that"
Morgan kicked off scoring 14 minutes into the first half, easily passing Australian defenders for her 100th goal for Team USA. Morgan is only the seventh player to ever hit the mark for the U.S. women’s team and the third youngest to do so.
Heath netted the second goal in the 53rd minute with a header from the back post off of a cross by Emily Sonnett. The pair also play together for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Portland Thorns FC. The goal marked Heath’s eighth in her past 10 games for the red, white and blue.
“(Heath) does a great job of being in position to not just find the ball, but to work off of her teammates, of being in the right spots,” Ellis said. “She can finish, and she can facilitate, that’s kind of a dream for a coach.”
Rapinoe contributed in the 60th minute, dominating the top of the box and firing a rocket that left little doubt to put the United States up 3-2.
The women’s team has four more games between now and the World Cup. The team’s next match is Sunday against Belgium in Los Angeles.