Captain Rose Lavelle brings the USWNT their second 2023 victory

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 21: Captains Ali Riley #7 of New Zealand and Rose Lavelle #16 of the United States stand with the refs during a game between New Zealand and USWNT at Eden Park on January 21, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 21: Captains Ali Riley #7 of New Zealand and Rose Lavelle #16 of the United States stand with the refs during a game between New Zealand and USWNT at Eden Park on January 21, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

With a strong start and a confident finish, the USWNT make the most of their last match against New Zealand, walking away with a 5-0 victory. Rose Lavelle wore the captain’s armband and lead the scoring with two goals and one assist. 

After a lackluster first half against the Football Ferns on Tuesday, the USWNT corrected course and came out much stronger in the second match on Friday, Jan. 20. After six changes to the starting lineup and a last-minute switch out, Rose Lavelle captained the squad. She tallied two of the five goals scored against New Zealand while leading a squad that appeared much more put together than it did on Tuesday.

USWNT starting XI

Vlatko made six changes to his starting lineup from Tuesday, including switching Casey Murphy into goal and bringing on Trinity Rodman in place of Midge Purce. This was Rodman’s third start and twelfth cap with the senior national team.

Another notable change was the absence of Lindsey Horan, who returned to France as agreed upon between the United States and her club team Olympique Lyonnais. This created significant changes in the midfield, with Ashely Sanchez and Andi Sullivan earning starts.

Alex Morgan was supposed to start for this match but was subbed out at the last minute due to lower leg tightness. Instead, Ashely Hatch joined the starting lineup. Morgan was supposed to captain the squad as well, but it was revealed at the start of the match that Rose Lavelle would be named captain in her 86th national team appearance.

First half

The first half felt much more in control than that of Tuesday’s match. Lavelle was sitting back with Sullivan to free up Sanchez to make runs into the box. Along with long balls from Dunn and Huerta, the USWNT was pressing higher and putting pressure on the Ferns from the start. They controlled the pace of the game and had several good runs before the first goal came in the 22nd minute from Ashely Hatch off a cross from Trinity Rodman.

The United States left the pitch up by two after another goal from Lavelle in the 39th minute off an excellent long ball from Huerta. Overall, they appeared much more confident and put together, which was reflected in the halftime score.

Second half

Vlatko started the second half with two substitutions. He brought on Emily Sonnett and Emily Fox respectively for Naomi Girma and Crystal Dunn. This was Sonnett’s 70th appearance for the national team and her first cap since July 2022 after returning from injury.

Mallory Swanson opened up scoring in the second half, sinking a shot into the top corner. In the 60th minute, four more subs were made as Kristie Mewis, Taylor Kornieck, Lynn Williams, and Midge Purce entered the game. They replaced Ashley Sanchez, Andi Sullivan, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Hatch.

Lavelle earned her second goal of the match off a Lynn Williams assist. The final goal was scored by Taylor Kornieck, her second goal in eight appearances for the USWNT after scoring in her debut.

Key takeaways

This team is as talented as always and when they’re confident, they’re incredibly dangerous. As Vlatko continues to fine-tune and lock down his world cup squad, these games are incredibly important for testing players to figure out their strengths and chemistry. Here are a few key takeaways from this match and looking ahead to the World Cup which is approaching fast.

  • Rose Lavelle should already be punching her ticket to the World Cup this summer. She was the strongest player on the pitch, earning a brace and an assist on Kornieck’s goal.
  • There are less than 10 matches to be played before the World Cup roster drops, so the pressure is on for the players and Andonovski.
  • The forward pool is deep and strong, and it’s worth remembering that several key players didn’t even appear this camp due to injury. Forgetting about Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, Catarina Macario, Christen Press, and Tobin Heath would be a mistake.
  • The midfield still has the largest problems, with players slotting in and out of the number six often. These games have been incredibly telling of how Vlatko might attempt to solve that problem, trying out Sullivan and Kornieck. He never made use of Sam Coffey during these matches despite calling her in for camp.
  • The defense is sorting itself out. With strong choices for center backs and outside backs, Vlatko’s main concern here is likely chemistry. Finding the balance between veterans and younger players will be key for the backline headed to the World Cup.
  • All eyes are on the World Cup as Rose Lavelle discussed in her post-game interview when asked about key takeaways: “When I think of what we did in 2019, a lot of it was we had a really strong start and we would score really early. So I definitely think that’ll be an emphasis for us.”  
  • The USWNT play their next matches in February for the SheBelieves cup, kicking off in Orlando, Florida for their opening match against Canada on Feb. 16.