The United States Women's Soccer Team (USWNT) did not disappoint an exuberant and patriotic crowd at Dick's Sporting Goods Park Saturday evening in Commerce City, Colorado. With five players with ties to the Centennial State, Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski deployed four talented locals—natives Sophia Smith, Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, and University of Colorado Boulder grad Taylor Kornieck to tackle FIFA Women's 23rd ranked Columbia. Windsor, Colorado's Jaelin Howell did not suit up in the first of two friendlies with Columbia. Smith and Kornieck scored all the goals needed to defeat the Las Cafeteras, 3-nil.
With the win, the USWNT has now won its last 13 matches overall against the CONMEBOL competition. The FIFA 1st ranked team has wins over Brazil (4), Colombia (3), Chile (3), Paraguay (2), and Argentina (1) during that span.
The USWNT also has shutout in 11 of its last 13 games against South American opposition.
In the first half of the match, Horan and Pugh had excellent chances to put the ball in the back of the net. Early on, Smith was drive at the goal and was rudely taken down in the box by a Columbia defender, one of five that attempted to create a rampart in hopes of denying the Lady Yanks from penetrating their goal. Smith was awarded a penalty, and Horan stepped to find the back of the net. However, her low salvo at the left corner was stuffed by Columbia's gritty keeper, Catalina Perez. The first of two PKs that she fended off in the game.
It's all level at 0-0 going into the half for #USWNT vs Colombia.— The Athletic Soccer (@TheAthleticSCCR) June 26, 2022
The story of the game has been the heroics of Colombia GK Catalina Pérez – including this PK save on Lindsey Horan.
@FOXSoccer | #USAvCOLpic.twitter.com/QEbFIDzwNy
Real Colorado Youth Soccer Club product, Sophia Smith, scored twice in a span of just six minutes during her first international game in Colorado. It wasn't until the send half of the tight match that picture-perfect goals from Smith and Kornieck brought the sell-out crowd to their feet. "I saw people I hadn't seen in years; it was amazing to see that support," Smith said after signing autographs on the sideline for nearly 30 minutes. "To get two goals was the cherry on top, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to play in front of the people I love."
"I think it's a privilege to compete against such high-level players every day in camp, and if it makes it harder to get a starting spot, that's good for everybody," Smith added. "It's only making us better, and we trust every single player we have on this on this roster to go out and play and perform. I think we were just trying to find our feet in the first half, trying to connect passes better and build chemistry and get a rhythm going," Smith said following the game. "Going into the second half, that's what we knew we had to do, to be patient and not panic and trust that the goals would come."
Her brace marked the second multi-goal game of Smith's international career, the previous coming in a hat trick vs. Uzbekistan on April 9. The 21-year-old Smith ranks second in the NWSL in scoring this season, and has now scored seven goals in her last four games combined for club and for the country, tallying twice in each of her previous three games.
Veteran Megan Rapinoe entered the match in the 77th minute and wasted no time making her presence known on the pitch. With time waning in the game, Rapinoe took on the responsibility for a set-piece service. Her punt found 6-foot-1 Kornieck. The former Colorado Buff, now NWSL Sand Diego Wave, promptly headed the into the goal for her first international goal, and so, during her debut with the senior side. Kornieck is the first player to score in her USWNT debut since 2016.
During his post-match meeting with the media, head coach Andonovski stated- "Taylor has been excellent in training, and we wanted to give her minutes to get her through some stress, nerves, and anxiety of her first CAP. We believe that we will need her when we're in the Concacaf W Championship Tournament. The skipper not only likes her agility and ability to the sky, but also her wherewith all to read the game and play with creativity.
During her press conference, the effusive midfielder commented. "It just means everything to me. It's been my dream since I was a little girl and scoring wasn't part of the plan, but it's a good perq," Rapinoe added, "We talked about it right before we both went in. Having a target like that is ridiculous, so it was kind of fun. I was like, and no way this is going to happen on her first CAP.'"
The NWSL just announced their Team of the Month for June 2022. Kornieck made the best XI. Kornieck also plays with USWNT icon Alex Morgan, in San Diego. She mentioned how the steady team leader helped settle her nerves while the duo sat on the team's bench before the opening whistle blew. Whatever Morgan said certainly quelled the rookies’ restlessness and she in turn delivered for her coach, teammates, family, and guests.
The USWNT will take on Las Cafeteras tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. MT with broadcast coverage on ESPN. Team USA fans will also be able to follow the match via Twitter and Instagram at @USWNT.
It will be the Stars and Stripes' final friendly before kicking off its qualifying campaign for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics. The team next travels to sweltering Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship. The tournament runs from July 4-18 and will serve as the region's qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Cup. New this year, the competition's champion will also earn a berth in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris and the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
USWNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 10/0), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 14/0), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 1/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 13/0), Kelley O'Hara (Washington Spirit; 153/2), Carson Pickett (North Carolina Courage; 0/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 203/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 65/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 110/25), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville: 5/1), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 1/1), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 72/20), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 39/5), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 8/2), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 28/3)
FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 9/4), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 191/115), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 73/23), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 14/3), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 188/62), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 3/1), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 16/6)