On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup
In 2016, the U.S. Women’s National Team scored 92 goals so choosing a Top 10 was not an easy task. We selected our "Top 10 Goals of 2016" based on the quality of the goal, the skill of the finish, the importance of the goal and a dash of sentimental value (#ThanksHAO). Tell us, which is your favorite WNT goal of 2016? Did your favorite make the list?
1. Alex Morgan vs. Germany (SheBelieves Cup; March 9): The game-tying goal brought the USA back into the game after an early strike from Germany’s Anja Mittag had given the European Champions the lead in the de facto SheBelieves Cup Final. Meghan Klingenberg evaded a defender near midfield and lofted a ball over the top of the German defense down the left side into the path of the sprinting Morgan. She let the ball bounce twice, as she muscled out a first defender, before deftly lifting it over Saskia Bartusiak with her left foot and ripping a right-footed shot into the net in two fluid steps. The importance of the goal, the level of difficulty and the skill and style with which she finished takes the top spot in 2016.
2. Carli Lloyd vs. Switzerland (International Friendly; Oct. 23): Lloyd has scored 96 goals in her career including quite a few spectacular strikes from distance, but it’s safe to say this should be among her best. While nothing may ever top her midfield shot in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, this rocket against Switzerland comes close. Some swift interplay between Andi Sullivan, Lloyd and Kelley O’Hara resulted in Lloyd receiving a pass from O’Hara and advancing toward the Switzerland goal. Lloyd crushed a lightning bolt strike from 27 yards out for a finish that spurred FOX’s play-by-play announcer Glenn Davis to describe as “hit with no regard for humanity.” It was the equalizing to make it 1-1 in what would be a 5-1 U.S. victory.
3. Crystal Dunn vs. England (SheBelieves Cup; March 3): Dunn had a terrific year for the USA. She scored 14 goals, including her five-goal performance against Puerto Rico, and also scored her first Olympic goal. But it was her game-winning tally against England at the SheBelieves Cup that stood out. After a competitive first half between two of the top teams in the world, Dunn came in as a substitute in the second half. The goal came after Meghan Klingenberg did some nice work on the ball to the left of the penalty area and then slipped a pass between two England defenders for Dunn, who took two touches into the left corner of the box and then ripped a shot into the top right corner for an incredible finish in the 1-0 U.S. victory.
4. Christen Press vs. Costa Rica (Olympic Qualifying; Feb. 10): Press is a prodigious goal scorer. In 80 games with the WNT, she has scored 41 goals, which includes 12 in 2016. There was one however that stood tall amongst the rest as it required a high level of poise and skill. In the opening game of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, Tobin Heath found Press with a cross into the penalty area from the left side. With her back to the goal, and just outside the six-yard box, she settled the ball with the outside of her right foot away from a defender, spun around and finished into the roof of the net on the left side. Classy finish and classic Press.Read more
The U.S. WNT kicked off the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in spectacular fashion on Wednesday night with a 5-0 victory against Costa Rica. The USA effort was led by Alex Morgan, who recorded a brace, her first goal coming 12 seconds into the match, and by tallies from Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press.
The USA now has 3 points in Group A and is tied atop the group with Mexico, who earlier in the day defeated Puerto Rico 6-0. Mexico however, holds a slight goal differential advantage. The two group leaders meet next on Feb. 13 at 3pm CT at Toyota Stadium, with the winner possibly clinching a spot in the semifinals if Costa Rica wins or draws against Puerto Rico in the other match of the day.Read more
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FRISCO, Texas (Feb. 10, 2016) – The U.S. Women’s National Team opened Group A play at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship with a 5-0 shutout against Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium.
Alex Morgan opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the match with the fastest goal in CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship history. Carli Lloyd assisted both of Morgan’s goals, with the second coming in the 62nd minute, and scored one of her own in the ninth minute. Lloyd and Morgan have assisted each other five times in the WNT’s past two matches and are responsible for five of the 10 goals scored by the USA in 2016.
Crystal Dunn scored in 15th minute of her Olympic Qualifying debut to give the USA a 3-0 lead heading into the half. Christen Press entered the match in the 74th minute and scored just nine minutes later, also in her first Olympic qualifier.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo recorded her 92nd shutout, further extending her U.S. WNT record for most shutouts.
Earlier in the day, Mexico topped Puerto Rico 6-0 in Group A action and sits atop the group with both teams having three points after the opening day of competition, but Mexico with a slight edge on goal difference. The WNT improved to 13-0-0 all-time against Costa Rica and 4-0-0 all-time at Toyota Stadium.
The U.S. WNT next faces Mexico at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 13, in its second Group A match as it continues the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in search of a berth to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. The match can be viewed live on NBC Live Extra and on replay on NBCSN at 8:30 p.m. CT.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd), 1st minute: Directly off the kickoff, Lindsey Horan sent a long ball from USA territory to Carli Lloyd who was about 30 yards from the goal. Lloyd flicked the ball with her head over the top of the Costa Rican defense to Alex Morgan, who fended off a defender and then struck a hard right-footed shot into the net from 10 yards out. The goal after just 12 seconds is believed to also be the fastest in the 31-year history of the U.S. Women’s National Team and it was the fastest goal ever scored in CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying. USA 1, CRC 0 (SEE GOAL)
USA – Carli Lloyd (Penalty Kick), 9th minute: Crystal Dunn drew a foul just inside penalty area to earn a USA penalty kick. Lloyd converted with a low, driven shot to left corner as the Costa Rica goalkeeper dove the wrong way. USA 2, CRC 0. (SEE GOAL)
USA – Crystal Dunn, 15th minute: Becky Sauerbrunn sent a long throw-in into the penalty area from deep down the left sideline. Horan headed the ball toward the goal and Morgan slid to power a near post shot that was parried, but not held by Diannia Diaz. Dunn sprinted to the loose rebound and cracked a shot that was spectacularly saved by the sprawling Diaz, but she could do nothing about the rebound that Dunn powered into the net off the foot of a Costa Rica defender who was sliding at the goal line. It was Dunn’s first goal of Olympic Qualifying and fifth of her international career. USA 3, CRC 0. (SEE GOAL)
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd), 62nd minute: Lloyd worked her way free into the right side of the penalty area with a nifty dribble and chipped a perfect cross over a defender to Morgan who met it with her head just steps away from the goal to flick it home for the duo’s fifth combined goal and assist over the past two matches. USA 4, CRC 0 (SEE GOAL)
USA – Christen Press (Tobin Heath), 83rd minute: Tobin Heath found Christen Press with a cross into the penalty area from the left side. With her back to the goal, and just outside the six-yard box, Press settled the ball with the outside of her right foot away from a defender, spun around and finished into the roof of the net on the left side for her first goal in Olympic Qualifying. USA 5, CRC 0 (SEE GOAL) FINAL
Next on the Schedule: The U.S. WNT continues Group A play in the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 13, against Mexico at Toyota Stadium. The U.S. is attempting to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games and win the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship for the fourth consecutive time. The match can be viewed live on NBC Live Extra and on replay on NBCSN at 8:30 p.m. CT.
- Lloyd leads the team with 10 all-time Olympic Qualifying appearances, followed by Hope Solo with nine.
- Morgan Brian, Crystal Dunn, Jaelene Hinkle, Lindsey Horan, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Christen Press, and Mallory Pugh each made their Olympic qualifying debut. Dunn and Press also scored.
- The match in Frisco marks the WNT’s fourth at this stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park and FC Dallas Stadium). The USA owns a 4-0-0 record, including a two wins against Canada and a victory against New Zealand prior to tonight’s match.
- Mallory Pugh earned her second cap with the WNT, coming in for Crystal Dunn in the second half. She is the youngest player in WNT history to play in an Olympic Qualifying match at 17 years, 9 months and 12 days old. Pugh, the captain of the U-20 WNT team that will compete at the U-20 WWC in Papua New Guinea at the end of the year, scored in her senior team debut on Jan. 23 vs. Ireland at 17 years, 8 months and 25 days old, becoming the youngest player to debut for the U.S. in the last 11 years.
- Carli Lloyd has now scored 83 international goals. She is in sixth place on the WNT’s all-time scoring list. Lloyd has scored 20 goals in the USA’s last 15 matches starting with the Round of 16 game vs. Colombia at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
- Alex Morgan has tallied 59 international goals, just one short of tying Shannon MacMillan for eighth on the USA’s all-time scoring list.
- Lloyd notched her ninth goal in 10 career Olympic Qualifying matches and Alex Morgan scored her fifth and sixth in only her fifth Olympic Qualifying cap.
- With 187 caps, Solo is the leader for caps by a goalkeeper in U.S. history.
- Solo is the all-time leader in wins for a goalkeeper in U.S. history with 141.
- Becky Sauerbrunn earned her 97th cap and could reach the century mark during the tournament, becoming the 35th U.S. woman to play 100 times for the WNT.
- U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: Feb. 10, 2016
Competition: 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying – Group A
Venue: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT
Weather: 65 degrees, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 2 5
CRC 0 0 0
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd) 1st minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (penalty) 9
USA – Crystal Dunn 15
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd) 62
USA – Christen Press (Tobin Heath) 83
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger (19-Jaelene Hinkle, 68), 8-Julie Johnston (12-Christen Press, 74), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 14-Morgan Brian, 9-Lindsey Horan, 16-Crystal Dunn (2-Mallory Pugh, 68), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 17-Tobin Heath; 13-Alex Morgan
Subs Not Used: 3-Samantha Mewis, 5-Kelley O'Hara, 6-Emily Sonnett, 15-Stephanie McCaffrey, 18-Ashlyn Harris, 20-Alyssa Naeher
Head coach: Jill Ellis
CRC: 1-Dinnia Diaz, 5-Diana Saénz, 6-Carol Sanchez, 7-Melissa Herrera (17-Karla Villalobos, 69), 8-Daniela Cruz, 9-Carolina Venegas, 10-Shirley Cruz (capt.) (3-Gloriana Villalobos, 80), 11-Raquel Rodríguez, 14-María Barrantes, 16-Katherine Alvarado (15-Cristin Granados, 46), 20-Wendy Acosta
Subs Not Used: 2-Gabriela Guillén, 4-María Benavides, 12-Lixy Rodríguez, 13-Yalitza Sánchez, 19-Fabiola Sánchez
Head coach: Amelia Valverde
Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 23 / 2
Shots on Goal: 12 / 2
Saves: 2 / 7
Corner Kicks: 9 / 1
Fouls: 9 / 7
Offside: 2 / 0
CRC – Dinnia Diaz (caution) 15th minute
CRC – Katherine Alvarado (caution) 29
USA – Julie Johnston (caution) 31
Referee: Cardella Samuels (JAM)
Assistant Referee 1: Stacy-Ann Greyson (JAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Princess Brown (JAM)
4th Official: Crystal Sobers (TRI)
Budweiser Woman of the Match: Alex MorganRead more