If Thursday’s international soccer exhibition between the United States and Mexico’s women’s teams — the first of two Send Off Series matches between the two in East Hartford — was one last warmup, one last litmus test before this month’s Tokyo Olympics, the home country passed with flying colors.
The U.S. beat its rivals to the south 4-0 on a rain-soaked Rentschler Field in front of 21,637 fans. The two will play again Monday at 5 p.m.
Samantha Mewis, a Massachusetts native, opened the scoring for the U.S. in the 21st minute off of an assist from her sister Kristie, and Christen Press scored 18 minutes later to give the red, white and blue a two-goal advantage headed into halftime.
The Mewis-Mewis connection was the first time in USWNT history that someone scored off of an assist from their sister.
“We all know how good Sam’s shot is,” Kristie Lewis said. “I just passed it to her, and I kind of knew that if I passed it to her, she was just going to take a touch and score. She texted me before the game and said, ‘If we have a sister-sister goal, we have to chest bump after.’ So of course it happened, and I had to like remind her like, ‘Sam, Sam.’ It’s hilarious that it happened that way.
“I kind of just had a feeling she was going to score that.”
The four-time Olympic gold medalist U.S. team held its lead steady through the second half, and added to it in the 74th minute. Tobin Heath, who had just been subbed into the game 52 seconds earlier, scored a third goal from well outside the box. Heath made such a quick impact that she hadn’t even been on the field long enough for the public address announcer to introduce her into the game before she scored.
Heath, a gold medalist in 2008 and 2012, had not played since December due to an ankle injury. It took her less than a minute in her return to make an impact.
“It was huge,” Heath said. “I didn’t know if I’d get back to this place, and it obviously took a lot of work and patience, and honestly a lot of help. I have a lot of people to be thankful for that helped me along the way.”
Press scored a fourth and final goal in the 74th minute.
There were missed opportunities for more goals, too: Megan Rapinoe missed and outside-the-box shot in the 12th minute that flew just above the crossbar. In the 50th minute, a wide-open Alex Morgan headed a ball that just narrowly passed over the top of the net. Rapinoe bounced a shot off the post in the 71st minute.
The U.S. dominated Mexico in all facets of the game; it out-shot Mexico 29-5 (7-1 on target), out-possessed Mexico 59% to 41% and was more accurate passing the ball (83% to 71% percent).
Stratford native Alyssa Naeher started in net for the U.S. and pitched a shutout for 45 minutes before she was subbed out for Adrianna French. Naeher, a World Cup winner in 2015 and 2019, plays professionally for the Chicago Red Stars.
“Both of them are very good goalkeepers,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Alyssa, we have no problems with her by any means. I think she’s incredible. I’m pretty sure we’ll be keeping her in goal in the upcoming games. ... We felt like this was a good opportunity to throw [French] into the game.”
The U.S. women, the top team in the FIFA world rankings, will open Olympic group stage play on July 21 against Sweden at 4:30 a.m. EDT at Tokyo Stadium. They’ll play New Zealand (July 24) and Australia (July 27) in the following week.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” said Kristie Mewis, who appeared in her 25th game for the national team on Thursday and has yet to play in a World Cup or Olympic tournament. “These players have won so many things, they’ve done so much, they’re so successful on and off the field. I truly look up to every single one of them.”
Shawn McFarland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.