EAST HARTFORD, July 5, 2021 – In just over two weeks, the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team will be in Tokyo playing Sweden before a few thousand fans if things go according to the plan. The Americans won’t be counting on a surge of energy from the crowd since only Japanese fans will be allowed to attend the games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps, they remember their Sendoff Series in at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field for some energy. More than 21,000 fans sat through a literal downpour for two hours on Thursday night in a 4-0 rout of Mexico.
On Sunday, the weather was better. It was cloudy but warm and Pratt & Whitney Stadium was energized.
A record 27,758 fans filled Rentschler Field to see the Americans again dominate Mexico with another 4-0 victory with four goals in the first 39 minutes of the game. It’s the largest crowd to see the women’s soccer national team play here in Connecticut.
“We drive in and there is just parking lot after parking lot of fans tailgating and you see everyone playing and kicking soccer balls around,” said American defender Becky Sauerbrunn. “Then, you go for warmup and you hear this huge roar for us and it honestly lightens my heart. My heart was very full for these two games.
“The fans stuck around for the game in the torrential downpour and they had (27,000) strong today,” she said. “It is truly amazing. I could not have asked for a better sendoff. Hartford, Connecticut just brought it. It was so amazing both of these games.”
Even two hours after the final gun and the fans celebrated with the players at the end of the game, there was a group of a few hundred fans loudly cheering on the players as they boarded their bus to leave Rentschler Field.
The Americans also brought it onto the field Sunday against Mexico, winning their 44th consecutive game, the second longest winning streak in program history.
Team USA scored two goals in a span of five minutes and should have added a third if the referee had not inadvertently blown her whistle, which stopped the play.
The Americans had a point to make – to themselves. Team USA wasn’t happy with the way they controlled the ball at times in Thursday’s deluge.
“What you saw today in the first 45 (minutes) was people really wanting to be in the right position, really fighting for the second ball,” Sauerbrunn said. “We felt good about the first contact and first ball (on Thursday) but a lot of second balls were jockeying to the Mexican players in the last game and that can be huge when it comes to these (Olympic or World Cup) tournaments. Keeping possession to rest your legs with a quick pass is something we really focused on.”
And the United States made some outstanding plays.
They took an early 1-0 lead just six minutes into the game as Carli Lloyd ran under a long ball near the top of the penalty area and sent a looping head ball to Lindsay Horan, who was running into the right side of the penalty area.
Horan met it eight yards out and smashed a perfect volley that screamed past the outstretched hands of Mexican goalie Itzel Gonzalez.
“I’ve been waiting for (that) volley all my life,” Horan deadpanned in the press conference afterwards. “She set it up just perfectly for me. You don’t know how long I work on volleys, half volleys. It is my favorite shot to hit so I was a little excited when that opportunity came.”
It was just the beginning of the fun for Team USA.
Five minutes later, it was Lloyd with the goal – a diving head ball into the net. The pass came from Crystal Dunn working on the left side of the field. Dunn set a nice crossing pass that cleared a leaping Mexican defender and went to 38-year-old Lloyd, who dove and headed the ball into the net for her third goal of the year and her 126th international goal.
With eight minutes left in the first half, Tobin Heath’s shot from 30 yards away was deflected up by Gonzalez but the ball bounced down off the crossbar right to the feet of American Christen Press, who pounded on the rebound and headed the ball toward the net.
Gonzalez made a save but the ball deflected off Mexican defender Reyna Reyes and into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Heath made it 4-0. After forcing a turnover, Samantha Mewis drove into the penalty area and as the Mexican defenders collapsed on her, Mewis dished the ball to Heath. The veteran striker hit a one-time shot with her left foot past a diving Gonzalez.
The USA could have gone into halftime with an even larger lead, but beautifully crafted goal by Press was disallowed due to an inadvertent whistle from the referee Danielle Chesky.
Stratford native Alyssa Naeher made two saves in net to get the shutout for Team USA.
The Americans return to action on Tuesday, July 21 when they take on Sweden in the first round of group play at the Olympics.
NOTES: The USA improved to 39-1-1 against Mexico and is undefeated in their last 58 matches on American soil (53-0-5). … It was the USA’s 20th straight home win dating back to head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s first match in charge of the team in November 2019. … Horan has scored or assisted in 12 of her last 20 appearances with 10 goals and seven assists. … The record-breaking crowd broke the previous state record of 21,792 fans that saw the U.S. women beat Columbia in a tuneup game for the Olympics in April 2016 at Rentschler Field.
United States 4, Mexico 0
At East Hartford
Mexico 0 0 — 0
U.S. 4 0 — 4
Goals: Lindsey Horan (Carli Lloyd), 6, Lloyd (Crystal Dunn) 11, own goal (Reyna Reyes) 37, Tobin Heath (Samantha Mewis) 39; Saves: Itzel Gonzalez (M) 8, Alyssa Naeher (USA) 2; Shots: United States, 17-5; Shots on goal, USA 11-2; Corner kicks, USA 5-2
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 17-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Capt.) 2-Crystal Dunn (14-Emily Sonnet, 68); 3-Samantha Mewis (19-Catarina Macario, 68), 9-Lindsey Horan (12-Tierna Davidson, 80), 16-Rose Lavelle (6-Kristie Mewis, 46); 7-Tobin Heath (15-Megan Rapinoe, 46); 10-Carli Lloyd (13-Alex Morgan, 46); 11-Christen Press
Head coach: Vlatko Andonovski
MEX: 12-Itzel González; 13-Reyna Reyes (2-Bianca Sierra, 66), 14-Christina Ferral (3-Karina Rodríguez, 57), 4-Jocelyn Orejel, 5-Jimena López; 20-Alison González (7-Daniela Espinosa, 57), 16-Nancy Antonio (21-Diana García, 80), 6-Rebeca Bernal (18-Dania Pérez, 80), 11-María Sánchez; 10-Stephany Mayor (Capt.), 9-Kiana Palacios (19-Katty Martínez, 66)
Head coach: Mónica Vergara