The U.S. Women’s National Team wrapped up its 2016 schedule with a pair of big results against Romania, winning 8-1 on Nov. 10 and 5-0 on Nov. 13 to finish the year with a 22-0-3 record. Since the penalty kick loss to Sweden at the Olympics officially counts as a tie, 2016 marks only the third time that the WNT has finished a year unbeaten in regulation when it has played 10 or more matches.
A 23-player roster trained for five days in San Jose, California at Stevens Stadium – the home field of Santa Clara University where Julie Johnston starred for four seasons – before it’s Nov. 10 matchup against Romania at Avaya Stadium.
“It’s always special to come back here,” Johnston, who played the entire second half just a stone’s throw from her old campus, said. “My school is one hop away from the stadium so having our second-to-last game of 2016 here is definitely exciting.”
Three uncapped players were on the November camp roster in defender Emily Menges, midfielder Kristin Edmonds and forward Jessica McDonald, upping the total of uncapped players that head coach Jill Ellis named to rosters for the final four games of 2016 to 14.
Against Romania in San Jose, the U.S. women dominated the match scoring eight goals in front of more than 16,000 fans. The effort was led by Stanford grad Christen Press, who scored her fourth career hat trick, finding the net three times in the first 38 minutes of the game.
For Press, as well as the entire player pool, the end of 2016 is just a transition towards a continued evolution and growth that will be needed in less than three years when the USA attempts to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
“Right now I have a lot on my mind in terms of where I want to be as a player and how I want to push myself as a player and nudge myself to the next level,” Press said after her three-goal performance. “The goals were the last thing on my mind and I was just focused on trying to be more aggressive and put more pressure on the other team and work on the things that I feel I need to work on to have a more prominent role on this team. Scoring is something I take so much pride in and have so much passion for.”
Alex Morgan added two goals, upping her total to 73 international tallies. The California native is now two away from tying Cindy Parlow for seventh on the all-time scoring list. Morgan finished the year with 17 goals, tying Carli Lloyd for most on the team in 2016.
Additionally, the USA benefitted from a Romania own goal, as well as goals by Tobin Heath – who scored a fantastic angled shot – and Morgan Brian, who found the back of the net for the first time this year, on a diving header no less.
McDonald earned her first cap in San Jose, making her the eighth player to debut under Ellis in 2016. The other seven were: Abby Dahlkemper, Ashley Hatch, Kealia Ohai, Mallory Pugh, Casey Short, Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams.
After the match in San Jose, the WNT traveled south to Los Angeles for the second leg of its two-game series taking place at StubHub Center in Carson. In its rematch vs. Romania, the USA scored five goals to earn its 18th shutout of the year and 22nd win.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher earned her fourth shutout of the year while becoming the 14th ‘keeper in WNT history to play in 10 or more international games. For Press, the goal was her 41st with the USA in 80 games and 12th of 2016, while Dunn finished her best scoring year yet with 14 goals and eight assists. Both players were the only two in the roster to see action in all 25 games the USA played in 2016.
“Crystal has shown me such a versatility, she’s effective wide and can be an effective central,” Ellis said following the USA’s 5-0 win in Carson. “She’s a handful and I think she understands that that is a strength for us. I think she’s had a really good year.”
The two games in California also marked the start of a well-deserved break for the rest of 2016 after two years of almost non-stop soccer.
Of course, before leaving their final camp of 2016, there was one more thing the U.S. Women had to accomplish…