Vlatko Andonovski entered Saturday’s friendly in Australia with two main goals: putting inexperienced players to the test and giving his entire team a chance to face a world-class opponent on the road in a hostile environment.
It was a mission fully accomplished for the USWNT and their coach against the Matildas as they emerged 3-0 ahead in a game that heralded the beginning of a new era after this summer’s disappointing Olympic performance in Japan.
MORE: Andonovski Says Australia Testing Will Reveal ‘Who’s Up For This And Who’s Not’
The scoring was perhaps tough for the hosts, who saw several good opportunities wasted or saved by Casey Murphy, who was outstanding in his first internationalization with the United States.
Ashley Hatch scored her first goal for the national team within the first minute of the game, with Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan scoring goals in the second half.
Although Australia had more possession and shots on target, the USWNT was far more ruthless and deserved victory in the first of two friendlies against the Australians this month.
Murphy shines in the first game
Alyssa Naeher has been the USWNT starter in goal for several years, but the image behind her is far from settled. Casey Murphy was given the opportunity to claim her claim on Saturday, and her performance ensured that she will now be in the conversation going forward.
The OL Reign goalkeeper made a large number of saves and showed good command of her area, making the most of a game in which the USWNT allowed eight unusually high shots on target.
“She came out big. She gave us confidence,” Andonovski said of Murphy after the game.
At 6-1, Murphy has a commanding frame and his NWSL form has suggested he could make the transition to the international game. Against the Matildas, she displayed all her skill, as well as a mindset that suggested she would not be disturbed by a great occasion.
“I thought it was great for the team, great for the baseline,” Andonovski added. “I feel comfortable saying that although this is the first cap for Casey, it will be one of many.”
USWNT gets the proof it wanted
It’s rare for the USWNT to play a high-quality opponent on the road in front of a hostile crowd. In fact, the last game that could be described like this came almost three years ago, when the United States lost in France to start 2019.
But the USWNT faced a game by the Australia team on Saturday that was backed by a crowd of 36,109, an independent record for a Matildas game in Australia.
Tony Gustavsson’s team controlled the first half and could have been ahead had it been more clinical and avoided the defensive lapse it cost them in Hatch’s opener.
These are the kinds of experiences that are invaluable for team building heading into the 2023 World Cup, when the USWNT may very well face hostile crowds again if they take on Australia or New Zealand.
Newcomers make an impression
One of Andonovski’s top priorities in this month’s friendlies and January camp is identifying new faces that he believes may be part of his main rotation heading into the 2023 World Cup.
For a USWNT team led by veterans in recent years, Saturday’s lineup was very out of the ordinary.
MORE: Carli Lloyd says goodbye to USWNT as a new era begins
With an average age of 26, the XI was the youngest in the USWNT since 2018 and it was the first time since 2013 that the 11 American incumbents were under the age of 30.
In addition to the aforementioned Murphy, Hatch also made quite an impression by scoring early and putting in a full performance in just his third international game. Sofia Huerta, who made her first appearance since 2018, had a strong midfield as a right-back and played an important role in the team’s second goal.
There were also national team debuts for Ashely Sánchez, Morgan Weaver and Bethany Balcer, who could feature more in Tuesday’s second friendly against the Matildas.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.