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The U.S. women’s national team kicked off its Summer Series with a victory on Thursday over Portugal, winning 1-0 despite a low-production night from the attack in Houston.
On paper, the Americans seemed to outright dominate the game — taking 26 shots, forcing nine saves, and possessing for 65% of the game. Portugal remained pinned in its own defensive third for most of the game, breaking out to force keeper Alyssa Naeher to make only a single save on the night.
But despite overwhelming pressure, the Americans remained scoreless for the first hour of play.
A goal in the 76th minute boosted the Americans in an otherwise sloppy night of attacking. Forward Christen Press curled a corner kick cross to the head of midfielder Sam Mewis, who barely had to move to nod in the game-winning goal.
But despite the positive scoreline, the night highlighted areas of improvement for the Americans as they make their final preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next month.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski said the match was a valuable opportunity for his team to hone its discipline and finishing.
“This is what we’re going to see at the Olympics,” Andonovski said. “We’re there for six games, and I’m pretty sure in the hot weather, humid, with short breaks, lots of teams will set up similar to how Portugal set up. It was a good test for us. ... Once again, we found a way.”
It was also a slow night for Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan, who struggled to get meaningful touches on the ball in her 73 minutes on the pitch.
The condensed defense from Portugal smothered the Americans’ early attempts to slip balls behind the line, where Morgan typically thrives. The striker touched the ball only 10 times in the first half.
Forward Carli Lloyd nearly added another goal in 82nd minute, but she was called offside after slipping behind the backline a step too soon on a free kick.
The match gave the Americans a chance to test out Lindsey Horan at the No. 6 defensive midfield position as starter Julie Ertz continues to recover from an MCL sprain suffered in May.
Ertz is still expected to return in time for the Olympics. But if her recovery process is delayed in any way, a teammate will need to step into the position, which Ertz has occupied for several years with extremely limited rotation.
Andonovski said he was pleased with Horan’s performance in the position, particularly in her ability to intercept passes and aerial balls to cut off transition chances for Portugal.
“I told her that she was a monster on the field,” Andonovski said. “Lindsey being Lindsey, she’s never satisfied; she always wants more. The first thing she asked me is when we can go over videos. ... I was so happy to hear that because that’s how they function. They want to grow; they want to get better.”
The Americans will remain in Houston for their next match against Jamaica on Sunday, which will feature a matchup between two Pride teammates as Morgan faces defender Konya Plummer. The team will then travel to Austin to face Nigeria on June 16.