Press, Johnston get the goals, USWNT thumps Colombia in latest friendly
CHESTER, Pa. (AP) Julie Johnston scored two goals, Tobin Heath had a pair of assists and the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Colombia 3-0 on Sunday.
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Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who wrapped up a two-game exhibition series with Colombia after a 7-0 win on Wednesday in Connecticut.
U.S. captain Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, was held scoreless despite several chances in her homecoming, coming out to a thunderous ovation in the 73rd minute.
The Delran, N.J., native grew up 30 minutes from Talen Energy Stadium, the home stadium of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. It was her first game in the area since leading the United States to the 2015 World Cup, getting a hat trick in the final.
“Although I would have liked to score in front of my home crowd, it’s not really the end of the world,” said Lloyd, who had more than 100 family and friends in attendance. “We won the game and that’s the most important thing.”
The Americans are 11-0 in 2016, outscoring their opponents 42-1. They are preparing for the Rio Olympics, where they’re seeking their fourth straight gold medal.
Coach Jill Ellis has several tough choices for the tournament and experimented with Sunday’s lineup, giving playmaker Heath her first start at fullback and sitting out starting goalkeeper Hope Solo in favor of Alyssa Naeher, who’s competing with Ashlyn Harris for the backup role in Rio.
“Way back when, Tobin played at the under-20 level as a left back,” Ellis said.
“But Tobin has a good mind, good feet, versatility, athleticism and she’s playing with so much confidence. That’s huge, especially when you go into a tournament with six games and a small roster - to have that flexibility is great.”
Heath admitted that she “prefers to be attacking,” but certainly put in a strong shift at both right back and left back, especially with her set pieces.
In the 42nd minute, Johnston one-timed Heath’s free kick past Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez to put the United States up 2-0. Heath and Johnston connected again on another free kick to close the scoring in the 79th minute.
“At the end of the day, it’s all Tobin,” Johnston said. “Tobin played the set piece perfectly where I needed to be. I was lucky enough to be in the right spots.”
It was the first multiple-goal game for Johnston, whose seven career goals have all come off set pieces. Like Lloyd, she also played in front of several family members, including her fiance, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
“It was awesome,” Johnston said. “To have Zach here, my family here, it’s always fun.”
Naeher improved to 4-0, earning her fourth career shutout. But she didn’t need to make any saves.
Perez, who plays for the University of Miami, made seven saves, including a big one on Lloyd in first-half stoppage time and a couple of more great ones right before the final whistle.
“I have a lot of respect for her,” Perez said of Lloyd. “Of course I watched her win the Golden Ball (at the World Cup). I think she’s an amazing person and player. To be able to play against her, it was awesome.”
Star Alex Morgan (hip) and Morgan Brian (hamstring) both missed their second straight game with injuries.
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Press opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a chip over Perez following a through ball from Lindsey Horan. It was the 33rd goal of her career, moving her into 16th place on the team’s all-time list.
Lloyd had a few chances to build on the Americans’ first-half lead, but pushed one close-range shot wide and had trouble controlling a cross right in front of the net.
Afterward, the star midfielder lamented that she “couldn’t buy a goal,” but denied pressing in front of her home crowd.
“Carli could be playing in front of five people and she will want to press for a goal,” Ellis said. “I think that’s her instinct. She’s a competitor and a goal-scorer. I think she could have had a couple today but credit their ‘keeper. She came up big and, at times, we weren’t as precise as we need to be.”
The Americans were playing their second game since five players, including Lloyd, filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation.