At halftime of the USA vs. Mexico game, on beautiful Thursday night at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, the U.S. Women’s National Team headed into the locker room with a 1-0 lead courtesy of an early goal from Mallory Pugh. While the USA had dominated possession, and created a handful of quality scoring chances through the first 45 minutes, the attack was not quite clicking in the final third. The score was close, Mexico had manufactured a few chances of their own in the first half, and the next goal would be crucial in determining the outcome of the match.
The USA got that goal, and another, and another, all in the four-minute span.
Like they’ve done many times before in their careers, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd stepped up and eliminated any chance for Mexico to claw back into the match.
In the 50th minute, Morgan made one of her classic runs behind the defense and powered past Mexico defender Annia Mejia who grabbed her arm and toppled her in the penalty area. The referee pointed to the penalty spot immediately. With Lloyd, the USA’s long-time penalty kick-taker, off the field, Morgan stepped up to take it herself and struck her shot into the corner just past Mexico goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, who guessed correctly but was unable get a hand on the well-placed attempt.
“I thought Alex played really well tonight,” U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis said. “I thought she was sharp. She has become a facilitator and a finisher (Morgan helped set up the first goal with an excellent pass to Megan Rapinoe who then fed Pugh) – I’ll chose the latter if I had to pick one – but she’s looking sharp. I use the word ‘hungry’ with Alex because I think she’s not just working hard when we have the ball but is working hard trying to win the ball back for us. I’m just really pleased with her and her output, and happy whenever she finds the back of the net. Overall, she had a very good performance tonight.”
ThatEscalatedQuickly.gif pic.twitter.com/t1m6G61bne— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) April 6, 2018
Two minutes later, Morgan was at it again, this time timing her run perfectly to get on the end of a slipped pass into the left side of the penalty box before finishing like fans have seen her do many times, with a lashed left-footed shot across the face of goal to the opposite corner. The ball hit the inside of the right post and bounced into the net to complete her 18th career brace and 21st multi-goal game.
Suddenly, the score was 3-0 and the USA’s attack was rolling. Moments later, Ellis made her first substitution of the game, bringing on Lloyd to replace Andi Sullivan in the center midfield in the 53rd minute.
Lloyd’s impact was almost instantaneous. The 35-year-old veteran came in at 52:49 and scored 29 seconds later at 53:12 on what was her first touch of the game. The goal made it 4-0 and effectively put the match away. The goal was the 99th of her international career, putting her one away from becoming the sixth WNT player in history to score 100 or more goals for the USA.
On the doorstep of history.@carlilloyd is one goal shy of becoming the sixth #USWNT player to hit 💯 pic.twitter.com/r2awswtdn4— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) April 6, 2018
For Lloyd though, it isn’t about milestones on the stat sheet.
“It’s an honor, but it’s not in the back of my mind,” Lloyd said about nearing the 100 career goals. “My mind is on getting better, and when that 100 goal comes, it comes, but it will also pass soon. I just want to continue to improve every day, get my chance off the bench and seize the moment.”
The USA will play the second match of its two-game set vs. Mexico on Sunday, April 8 (12:30 p.m. CT; FOX) at BBVA Stadium, as the road to the Concacaf Women’s Championship this October continues.