USA Women Run Out of Gas in Italy

March 19, 2018, 1:18 a.m. (ET)
Saturday night in Salerno, Italy, the USA Women’s National Team (WNT) closed out their training camp with a 27-17 loss to the Italian Women’s National Team.  The USA had tied Italy two days earlier with a spirited comeback in the last minute, after leading for the first 39 minutes of the game.  Saturday night was different in nearly every regard.

Between games the Italians picked up two stars who rejoined the team after being abroad.  While on the USA side, the WNT were without Star defender Jennifer Fithian, and goal keepers Sophie Fasold and Freja Dobreff.  The WNT athletes were obligated to return home on Friday. 

Although the USA was literally shorthanded, they lost because the Italians out played them in most areas of the game.  Capitalizing on their experience against the Americans Thursday Night, the Italians immediately went into an up-tempo game and tried to run whenever they could.  They jumped into an early 5-1 lead, with only a Julia Sayer goal on the board for the WNT. 

The USA scratched back behind goals Sayer, Kathy Darling, Sayer again, as well as Julia Taylor.  Yet, the Italians were brimming with confidence as the attacked successfully from the left wing. Over and over the Italians scored that way, and the WNT could only muster two goals by Jence Rhoads, with a Darling goal sandwiched in between.  At halftime, a badly out played USA WNT was down 12-8, but were still in the game.

The second half opened with a blistering tempo by the Italians.  Whether four games in 7 days was catching up to the Americans is left for debate, however it was obvious the WNT athletes were a half-a-step slower than Thursday night.  The Italians poured it on and it seemed for a minute that a true blowout was about to occur.  However, Zoe Lombard scored to get the USA back in the scoring column, followed by Anja Borg.  Unfortunately, the Italians went out in front by 12, 13, 14 goals and were pulling away. 

As time ran down, Rhoads and Butler scored and the Americans were making it respectable.  The Italians eventually had no answer when the defense played higher with Sarah Gascon above the 9-meter line. The Americans then got a boost from Gascon scoring inside, followed by a pair of goals from Ashley Butler.  When Darling notched another, the WNT started cutting into the big Italian lead.  Eventually Darling would score to reduce the Italian victory to a respectable 10-goals.  In spite of their fatigue and without several stars, the USA demonstrated there was no quit in the WNT.

The Americans demonstrated remarkable progress over the last several months as during this camp they won two games against a division one team for the first time in memory.  They tied the Italian Women’s National Team in a thriller Thursday before dropping the last match of the tour.  There is much of which to be proud for the American squad, and yet there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

Next up for the Americans is a trip to South Korea to participate in a major international tournament featuring three powerful professional club teams and two other national teams.  Following the tournament, the Americans will fly to Shanghai, where Assistant Coach Cheng Fen He has scheduled the team to play against some quality Chinese club teams.