Sydney Leroux, Abby Wambach lead U.S. to convincing win over Mexico
Despite a few first-half difficulties, the United States women defeated Mexico, 5–1, on Sunday in their second World Cup warm-up match. Sydney Leroux scored twice, and Abby Wambach added two more off the bench to bury Mexico after a close opening period.
After a flurry of early opportunities, the U.S. took the lead through Leroux in the 28th minute. Mexico needed just 12 minutes to equalize, as Arinna Calderón headed home off a wide free kick.
Right off the second-half kickoff, substitute Lori Chalupny scored her second goal of 2015 for the U.S. to restore the lead. A handball in the penalty area led to Wambach’s first goal, and Leroux scored her second of the game on the hour mark. Wambach added her second—and fourth in the last two games—off a nice move by Tobin Heath on the left wing.
The deficit would have been far greater but for the goalkeeping heroics of 21-year-old Cecilia Santiago, who is already headed to her second World Cup in Canada. The U.S. has one tune-up game left, against Korea Republic on May 31, before its World Cup kicks off in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Here are three thoughts on the win over Mexico on Sunday:
Leroux, Wambach lead forward breakout
American forwards had scored in just two games in 2015 before Wambach’s two goals against the Republic of Ireland on May 10 and the position’s four-goal outburst on Sunday. Alex Morgan scored in a 1–0 win over England on Feb. 13, and Morgan, Wambach and Amy Rodriguez gave the U.S. a 3–0 win over Switzerland during the Algarve Cup.
The U.S.'s primary goal-scoring threats came up big on Sunday, as Leroux and Wambach each netted two. The U.S. isn't lacking in forward options on its roster, with Christen Press also playing a withdrawn role up top despite normally featuring on the right wing in the lead up to the World Cup.
Leroux looked dangerous with her pace behind a high Mexico back line all match, scoring twice on similar plays and finding a couple other opportunities interspersed. It was also a welcome and opportune outbreak for Leroux personally, as her last goal came in a 6–0 win over Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying in October.
Wingers facilitate forward outburst
The U.S. wingers played an important support role for the forwards against Mexico, creating multiple goalscoring chances and nearly finishing off a few of their own. Chalupny, on as a left back, did get the finishing touch on the second U.S. goal after combining with Wambach. Megan Rapinoe had a long-distance blast called back for handball late in the game.
If Press plays on the wing, where she had been dangerous until getting a chance higher up the field, Morgan Brian will likely start on the bench. However, Brian played in Press’ usual position on Sunday, showing her positional sense in a possession-oriented system supporting the central players.
On the left, Rapinoe was the U.S.’s most dangerous playmaker. Cutting inside, she slipped passes through the Mexican back line and even got behind herself—Rapinoe is no slouch with either her technique or her speed. The midfielders initiated a much faster ball circulation than against Ireland, which put Mexico on its heels.
Mexico goal shows cracks in U.S. defense
Mexico’s goal was the first time the U.S. has been under pressure in the last three matches. It’s tough to shore up defensive issues against opponents that don’t pose as frequent a threat as the U.S. does on the other end, but group opponents in Canada might only get one or two chances a game as well.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo has periodically had problems coming off her line on crosses from farther up the field, which is how Mexico’s goal started off a dead ball. Those situations make it more difficult to judge the flight of the ball, and it showed in Solo’s hesitation to come off her line.
Still, the U.S. played much better than it did in the 3–0 win over Ireland a week prior, the single defensive mistake notwithstanding. Faster ball circulation and better finishing overwhelmed Mexico, and if the U.S. can score multiple goals a game in Canada, that makes any errors on the other end far less dangerous.