With the majority of the famed 99ers on hand, the U.S. women's national team put on a show for its predecessors against Belgium as it continued preparations for this summer's Women's World Cup in France.
Coming off a thrilling 5-3 win over fellow World Cup contender Australia in Colorado on Thursday night, the U.S. routed its European opponent 6-0 at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles Sunday, with Carli Lloyd scoring twice and adding an assist and Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, Alex Morgan and Jessica McDonald all scoring as well.
Jill Ellis brought about a number of changes from that Australia friendly, most notably giving Ali Krieger her first cap in two years, with the veteran starting at right back. Julie Ertz, who has solidified her place in the midfield, started at center back, where she was such a revelation in the 2015 Women's World Cup. Crystal Dunn, who figures to be starting at left back in France, began in the midfield, while the entire expected starting front line of Tobin Heath, Morgan and Megan Rapinoe gave way to Christen Press, Lloyd and Mal Pugh.
The match began in a wide-open fashion, with Belgium earning a corner kick off a Krieger tackle just 11 seconds into the match before the USA cleared and then asserted its dominance over the proceedings. The first shot on frame came via Horan, who bent a free kick from 20 yards right at goalkeeper Nicky Evrard in the sixth minute.
The goal the USA was seeking came soon after. Lloyd displayed her aerial prowess by leaping for a long Tierna Davidson pass and connecting for 12-yard header that trickled into the far corner of the goal. The tally gave the USA a 1-0 lead a quarter of an hour in and giving Lloyd 106 goals in her international career.
Lloyd made it 107–tying Michelle Akers for fourth on the all-time U.S. list–less than five minutes later. Dunn supplied the assist, with Lloyd flicking home another header to make it 2-0 within 20 minutes.
The USA maintained its aerial attack to pile on in the 26th minute. Horan was the beneficiary, heading in from Press's corner kick to make it 3-0.
The U.S. continued pounding home its aerial theme seven minutes later, with Mewis extending the advantage to 4-0 with a header from a right-sided angle off another assist from Press.
It was at halftime that the 99ers were honored in an on-field ceremony, the culmination of their reunion 20 years in the making.
The 2019ers, meanwhile, didn't relent after halftime, though they altered their preferred method of scoring. Lloyd played the role of provider, setting up second-half substitute Morgan for her 101st career goal in the 52nd minute–one scored with her feet–to make it 5-0.
Belgium was stymied most of the night but nearly pulled one back in the 79th minute. Janice Cayman fired away on a speculative chance from outside the box that took a deflection and wrong-footed substitute goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris but ricocheted off the outside of the post.
With the result well in hand, the U.S. nearly made it 6-0 before the full-time whistle, with McDonald unable to turn Morgan's cross in from six yards out. She made up for it in stoppage time, though, heading home the final tally off Press's free kick–the USA's fifth headed goal and Press's third assist of the night.
The USWNT's next phase of preparation for France is a three-match send-off series. The Americans will play South Africa at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on May 12; New Zealand at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 16; and Mexico at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on May 26 before departing for the Women's World Cup.