The U.S. women's national team finished off its undefeated 2018 by edging a valiant Scotland 1-0 in Paisley on Tuesday.
Alex Morgan's first-half volley was the difference, though Carli Lloyd missed a penalty and the U.S. defense dodged some close calls en route to posting a ninth consecutive clean sheet. The U.S. women, who beat Portugal 1-0 last Thursday, extended their unbeaten streak to 28 games total by going 18-0-2 over the calendar year. Scotland, which will go to its first Women's World Cup next summer, fared well without influential midfielder Kim Little, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered last month.
Scotland had another injury scare in the opening moments after Erin Cuthbert appeared to suffer a head injury only to come back on. The hosts came up with the game's first chance soon after in the fourth minute off a dangerous curling free kick. The chance skipped multiple times through the box with the U.S. unable to clear, but managed to avoid being tucked home.
The U.S. had its first solid opportunity in the 15th minute, with Carli Lloyd, Morgan and Mallory Pugh executing a superb counter attack. Lloyd sparked it with a back-heel pass to Pugh, who carried through the midfield. She sprayed it wide left for Morgan, who cut back on her defender and appeared to have a shooting lane but instead elected to lay it off for Pugh. Her shot went wide of the post, though, keeping the score at 0-0.
Scotland nearly scored twice at the half-hour mark. First, a flicked-on ball off a corner kick had to be cleared off the line by Morgan, and then, as the U.S. tried to play out of the back, Pugh turned the ball over, allowing Jane Ross the chance to try and chip goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Her chance went over the bar, letting the U.S. off despite its mistake.
The U.S. managed to get the breakthough it needed to ease some nerves in the 39th minute. Morgan and Pugh had created most of the danger for the U.S. in the first half, and that combination got the job done, with Pugh's cross from the right being volleyed home by Morgan for the 98th international goal of her career.
Julie Ertz came close to doubling the USA's lead in the 53rd minute after some impressive team play in the final third. Pugh found Lloyd, whose back-heel landed at Morgan's feet. She laid it off for Ertz, whose close-range blast was blocked and saved, keeping things at 1-0.
The U.S. should have doubled its lead in the 62nd minute, after Pugh won a penalty kick by absorbing a foul in the box. Lloyd stepped to the spot and rattled the crossbar with her powerful penalty, though, missing out on the opportunity to pad the advantage.
Scotland nearly capitalized on the miss and came close to equalizing in the 75th minute through Cuthert. She worked a give-and-go with substitute Lana Clelland but had the ball taken off her foot and put out for a corner by Becky Sauerbrunn just as she was about to fire on goal from close range. Clelland caused more problems in the 80th minute, getting in behind the defense for a ball over the top and firing on goal, only for Harris to make the diving save.
The U.S. saw out the match from there, completing its unbeaten year with a second straight 1-0 triumph.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
The U.S. women will return to action in 2019 by opening the new year with a major test: Playing World Cup host France on Jan. 19 in Le Havre.