Superbly taken second-half strikes from Christen Press and Carli Lloyd fired the United States to a 2-0 win over England as the reigning world champions began the SheBelieves Cup in style on Thursday.
Press and Lloyd struck within three minutes of each other just after half-time to complete a routine win over England, winners of the four-nation round-robin tournament last year.
The USA’s victory was all the more impressive for the fact that coach Vlatko Andonovski could afford to leave star forward Megan Rapinoe on the bench until she was introduced on 62 minutes.
England enjoyed some encouraging moments yet defended very poorly and failed to display the kind of killer touch their visitors produced to leave manager Phil Neville with much to ponder ahead of Sunday’s game with Japan in New Jersey.
The USA came into the clash on the back of an unbeaten 28-game run and faced an England side still hurting from their World Cup semi-final defeat against the Americans eight months ago in Lyon.
Neville’s side have been less than impressive recently, winning just two of their last seven matches coming into the meeting at Exploria Stadium although their opening display on Thursday did little to build confidence.
“The second half was better from us, we should have put some more away but this was a good start,” said US midfielder Julie Ertz.
“I always enjoy playing England but for us, it’s all about getting better and stronger as we get through this tournament and build up towards the Olympics.”
In front of a healthy crowd of 16,531, US midfielder Rose Lavelle created the first clearcut opening, an excellent drive from 20 yards well saved by Carly Telford before England almost took the lead on 25 minutes.
A Georgia Stanway corner was flicked on by the lively Manchester City winger Lauren Hemp but midfielder Jill Scott was unable to nudge the ball over the line.
Ertz’s powerful header four minutes after the restart flashed just over the bar yet it was Press who opened the scoring on 53 minutes with a beautifully struck, curling effort which left Telford with no chance.
And the game was settled soon after in emphatic fashion. Lindsey Horan clipped a great ball into the area and the 37-year-old Lloyd needed no invitation to smash home from close range.
“It was a good game,” Lloyd said. “Yes we wanted to score earlier but overall there was some good stuff from us. We are setting standards.
“I am proud of the team, we fought hard and got the job done. Now we need to get ready for the next one. As always our next goal is to be better than our next opponents. If we do that there will be no stopping us.”
– ‘best in the world’ –
“There was a three minute period where they showed why they are the best in the world,” conceded England manager Neville.
“The goals came at a bad time and then we became ragged and lost composure.
“We need belief to win these kinds of games, when you’re playing the best in the world in front of a good crowd with tension.
“We just need to keep moving forward. This tournament is brutal, now we have to show some resilience.”
In the opening match, Spain sprung a surprise by beating Japan 3-1 and will hope to take that form into their game with the United States at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.