In a match more reflective of a FIFA World Cup quarterfinal then an international friendly, the U.S. Women’s National Team earned its 17th win of the year on November 9th by downing a resilient Portugal side 1-0 before a boisterous crowd at Estádio António Coimbra da Mota in Estoril (Portugal). The win was also a milestone for the senior team, as it was their 500th victory.
The U.S. attack got off to a challenging start as Portugal defended with as many as eight players in the midfield and dropped seven into the box on U.S. corner kicks.
The United States’ best early opportunity to strike first came on an 11th-minute set piece. Megan Rapinoe chipped the ball toward a wide-open Lindsey Horan near the far post, but Horan just missed on her volley attempt. Horan had another chance at scoring on an almost point-blank shot, but Portugal’s keeper, Patricia Morais, raced out to suppress the ball and prevent the crashing midfielder from taking a clean shot.
Horan took several strong challenges from the very physical opponents and in the first half, she jogged off the pitch for several minutes to receive treatment on her knee. Later, she went down after a couple hard collisions that impacted her forehead and lower back.
The Lady Yanks finally broke down Portugal’s defense around the 40th minute when Mallory Pugh put a perfect pass down the right flank to the speedy Crystal Dunn. Dunn then sent a cross in on the ground to the oncoming Jessica McDonald, the 30-year-old North Carolina Courage star and MVP of this season’s NWSL Championship game. McDonald hit her first shot well but right at the keeper, who deflected it. McDonald blocked Portugal’s attempt to clear the ball and took the opportunity to fire again, hitting the back of the net for her first career goal.
For the most part, Pugh played well throughout the 93-minute match. She often had to evade three or five defenders who badgered her when she was on the ball. The swift forward was able to elude the pressure and keep the U.S. in possession of the ball.
With this win, the USA improved to 17-0-2 in 2018 and extended their unbeaten streak to 27 matches (24-0-3), dating back to July 2017. The U.S. women close their two-game European trip by taking on World Cup-bound Scotland next Tuesday.
The team will need to step up against the Scots. After taking only five shots on goal and being involved in just seven corner kicks against Portugal, the US will have its work cut out in their 2018 finale. They are currently the top-ranked team in the world, while Portugal is ranked No. 33 and did not qualify for France.
Check out some photos from the match below: