Just 4 days ago, the No. 16 U.S. Women’s National Team faced No. 10 China in the FIH Hockey Pro League at the National Hockey Centre in Wellington, New Zealand. Although the first battle saw many opportunities go unconverted, the United Eagles made the most of their chances today, behind a solid defensive effort, to shutout China for the 2-0 win.
“I am delighted for the whole squad of 23 here,” said David Passmore, USWNT Head Coach, following the victory. “We had some deep and tough conversations after our last match and worked really hard on our defense. We started much more brightly and with control but the togetherness of our team culture and relentlessness stood strong when needed.”
It took until the 5th minute of the game before either team positively broke into their attacking end. This came for China when Chen Yang drove the right baseline and Zhong Jiaqui’s shot was stopped by USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas). The United Eagles had two circle entries in the quarter but were unable to produce an outcome. The first came when Amanda Golini (Randolph, N.J.) dribbled on the left baseline but couldn’t keep the ball in bounds. Next, Leah Crouse (Virginia Beach, Va.) received an overhead and pushed forward with Megan Rodgers (San Diego, Calif.), but she was unable to keep possession. China upped their pressure against USA’s defense, which paid off on a few turnovers, but the game remained scoreless.
Just 90 seconds into the second quarter China earned the game’s first penalty corner, which started a series of five set pieces. The first saw Alexandra Hammel (Duxbury, Mass.) save it off the goal line and the United Eagles successful defended the other attempts, even forcing Bing to make back-to-back stops. After the threatening pressure, USA earned their first penalty corner in the 22nd minute after Rodgers capitalized on an error by China. On the chance, Beth Yeager’s (Greenwich, Conn.) drag was deflected away off the glove of China goalkeeper Ye Jiao, but it sparked confidence for the red, white and blue. With just two minutes remaining before the break, USA took a free hit quickly and Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) sent a cross into the circle to Sanne Caarls (Nieuw-Vennep, Netherlands) who found space and sent a backhand in to give the United Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Carrying the momentum from the end of the previous half, USA wasted no time to double their lead in the third quarter. Two minutes in, Caarls worked it forward to Sessa who deflected it to Brooke DeBerdine (Millersville, Pa.) whose touched it through China’s defense to Golini. She collected it, worked around China’s goalkeeper Liu Ping and put it away for the 2-0 lead. A persistent China continued to lurk on the attack but solid collective defense by USA kept them at bay to maintain the 2-0 lead.
China had control for much of the fourth quarter even producing four penalty corner chances but couldn’t find a way to break through USA’s defense. With 7 minutes to go, China pulled their goalkeeper, but the extra field player wouldn’t help as the United Eagles packed everyone behind the ball. The red, white and blue almost extended the lead with 3 minutes remaining when Maddie Zimmer (Hershey, Pa.) used speed and sent a square pass to Rodgers but she unfortunately couldn’t get a shot off on an open goal. USA held on to secure the 2-0 win and collect the three points.
Following the game, USA’s Amanda Golini was named Player of the Match.
Today’s contest marked the first international cap for Josie Hollamon (Delmar, Del.).
USA has a quick turnaround as the face No. 9 New Zealand tomorrow, February 24, at 9:10 p.m. ET in their fourth and final FIH Hockey Pro League game of the mini-tournament in Wellington, New Zealand.