U.S. women's national team defeats Ireland in Glendale
2nd goal set up by former Sun Devil LePeilbet
It didn't take long for the United States women's national team to get on the scoreboard as they defeated the Republic of Ireland 2-0 on Saturday night. 11,570 fans watched as the U.S. scored 44 seconds into the match at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The kickoff gave Lauren Cheney the ball, which she slipped to Alex Morgan who shot past the surprised Irish goal keeper, Emma Byrne. The first goal of the match took less than a minute to appear on the scoreboard.
The U.S. dominated in all aspects of the game in the first half. The few times an Irish player would get the ball, they would be quickly dispossessed before being able to pass.
Ireland registered no shots on goal, or even a threatening possession, for the first 20 minutes of the game. It was time for someone else to get some time on the field, and the popular starting keeper Hope Solo exited the game to great applause from the crowd. Substitute keeper Jill Loyden, who served as Hope Solo's back up with St. Louis Athletica in 2009, made her fourth appearance for the national team.
Ireland managed a free kick a few yards outside the penalty area in the 25th minute for their first real threat on goal. Megan Campbell's shot went wide.
Although Byrne did a better job keeping the U.S. out of the goal than she did on Wednesday, she was unable to stop an attempt that started with former Arizona State player Amy LePeilbet making a long pass to Alex Morgan. Morgan took the ball nearly to the end line before passing it into the box. Megan Rapinoe didn't look quite ready for it, but took a shot that fooled Byrne to widen the U.S. lead.
The second half started with Nicole Barnhart subbing in for Loyden, marking the third U.S. keeper of the match. Neither Solo nor Loyden were tested: Ireland recorded no shots on goal in the first half.
Although the U.S. didn't manage to match the goal scoring match against Ireland on Wednesday, they weren't lacking for offense. Midfielder Carli Lloyd managed three shots on goal, including one in the 67th minute that required a stretching Byrne to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Arizona raised Sydney Leroux, who scored two earlier this week, had her best chance in minute 75. Byrne saved the ball in what turned out to be a remarkable half for the Arsenal LFC keeper.
The game ended with the fifth win for the U.S. on their Fan Tribute Tour. The next stops on the tour all involve a much tougher opponent: China. The US will travel to Detroit on Dec. 8, Houston on Dec. 12 and Boca Raton on Dec. 15 to take on the Forceful Roses, currently ranked 18th in the world.
The new coach is coming; look busy
The team is currently tutored by interim coach Jill Ellis, with Australian national team coach Tom Sermanni set to take over in January. He wasn't at this game, but he plans to attend the matches against China.
"It’s a fresh start for everybody. He’s watching films and taking notes on things he wants to tweak and things he likes," said Carli Lloyd after the match. "I’m looking forward to these three games and getting on the pitch with Tom."
"I've heard great things about him," said Lloyd. "I think he's going to come in and do a great job and we'll keep having fun on the field."
Defender Amy LePeilbet welcomes the change.
"I'm a person that rolls with things. I don't stress too much," she said. "I'm excited to meet Tom. I've never met him before and I've never played for him...I'm sure he'll bring some new and exciting things to our team."
Back to Arizona
Two players with Arizona connections saw time on the field.
Amy LePeilbet earned First-Team All-PAC-10 honors three times during her time at Arizona State University.
"It's exciting to be back, I love playing here," she said as young fans were still screaming for their favorite players after the game. "It's like my home turf."
"I think the level lifting everywhere is a good thing," she said about the growth of the sport in Arizona. "Everyone jumping to the next level is pushing the sport, more athletes are developing, working at a higher rate, playing against better players and having better competition. I think it’s going to help our sport grow in America."
Former Sereno Soccer Club standout Sydney Leroux is Canadian-born, but went to high school in Phoenix. She feels a special connection to the soccer scene in Arizona.
"It's coming home," said LeRoux of the crowd that included players and friends that she knew in high school. "It’s where soccer started for me for with the U.S. National Team so it just feels really good to come back."
For stat geeks
Center back Christie Rampone earned her 273rd cap, putting her in third place for all time appearances for the national team. She is only surpassed by Mia Hamm (275) and Kristine Lilly (352).
Alex Morgan's goal marks 27 for the year. The only two U.S. players exceeding that mark are Abby Wambach (31 in 2004) and Michelle Akers (39 in 1991). Her assist was her 19th of the year. For single year totals, that's only exceeded by Carin Gabarra (21 in 1991) and Mia Hamm (20 in 1998 and 22 in 2004).