The U.S. Women’s National Team completed its highly competitive final run of 2022 with a stirring 2-1 comeback win against Germany in front of 26,317 fans at chilly Red Bull Arena. Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh scored within a three-minute span in the second half to conclude a successful year in which the USWNT won the 2022 Concacaf W Championship to qualify for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games.
The USA’s final match of 2022 came was part of a two-game set on home soil against third-ranked Germany as two of the 2023 World Cup favorites put on two highly entraining matches. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski made two changes to the starting XI from Thursday’s meeting in Florida with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and center back Becky Sauerbrunn bringing experience to the U.S. defense. Both were called upon throughout the match and Naeher in particular had a strong showing with numerous critical saves and interventions.
The match began much as the previous with bruising challenges from both teams as each tried to impose its will on the game. While both teams produced five shots through the opening 45 minutes, it was Germany that found the cutting edge in the 18th minute as forward Jule Brand swept home a loose ball deep inside the penalty area to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. picked up its intensity following the goal and began to carve out more opportunities in the remaining fifteen minutes of the half, but the halftime whistle ended the search for a first half equalizer.
The heightened intensity remained to begin the second stanza and within 10 minutes of the restart the USA had dramatically seized the lead and brough the near sell-out crowd to its feet. First, Naeher made an excellent dash off her line to gobble up the ball on a slide and deny halftime substitute Lina Magull. Moments later, midfielder Rose Lavelle fed the ball to the Smith, the 2022 NWSL MVP, just outside the penalty area on the right side. She then dribbled through a forest of Germany defenders before unleashing a rocket into the top left corner in the 54th minute. Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult got her hand on the ball but could not turn the blast away.
The goal was her team-leading 11th of 2022 and the 12th of her career. At 22-years-old, Smith closes out the year as the top scorer for the USWNT. She is the youngest player to lead the USA in scoring in a calendar year since a 21-year-old Mia Hamm led the team in scoring in 1993, seven years before Smith was born.
Just two minutes and 28 seconds later, the speed of Pugh put her in alone on goal after a great win in the midfield from Andi Sullivan gave her the chance to get behind the German defense. The young winger dribbled into the penalty area and neatly tucked the ball past Schult into the lower left corner to put the U.S. up 2-1, a margin that would stand for the rest of the match.
With the lead in hand, the U.S. continued to pour it on with Pugh leading the charge as her speed and attacking savvy beat the Germany defense on several occasions and the Americans were unfortunate not to add a goal or two to the final tally.
As the final whistle approached, Andonovski went to his bench, making three subs in the final seven minutes to shore up the side and salt away the win, which also gave the fans a chance to pay tribute to an all-time WNT great. When Taylor Kornieck came in for Alex Morgan in the 83rd minute, an adoring salute was awarded to Morgan, who played in her 200th game for the USWNT. Morgan, who debuted for the USA in 2010 and is in her 13th year with the USWNT, became just the 13th player in program history to reach the 200-cap milestone, match her jersey number. She had a great chance to score before exiting as another transition attack by the USA proved highly dangerous. Pugh played her into the left side of the penalty area, but left-footed shot from a sharp angle was well-saved by Schult.
Having ended a successful year on a high note, the USA will break for the holidays before returning to action with a January training camp in New Zealand where the team will play a pair of friendlies against the 2002 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts Football Ferns on Jan. 18 in Wellington and Jan. 21 in Auckland.
GER – Jule Brand, 18th minute – Germany attacked down the right and sent a cross to the back left post where Sophia Kleinherne’s one-time volley was blocked by U.S. defender Sophia Huerta. The ball bounced fortuitously to Brand, who was stationed at the penalty mark, and she swept home a low shot through traffic into the lower right corner. USA 0, GER 1
USA – Sophia Smith, 54th minute – The U.S. won a throw-in deep in Germany territory and got the ball to the feet of Lavelle near the right side of the box. She rolled it into the path of Smith, whose dribble through multiple Germany defenders was aided by a touch from her marker. Catching up to the ball, Smith rifled a shot into the upper left corner that powered through a touch by Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult for her team-leading 11th goal of the year. USA 1, GER 1
USA – Mallory Pugh, 56th minute – A long ball from U.S. midfielder Andi Sullivan was headed backward by Germany’s Kathrin-Julia Hendrich only for Pugh to race in front of defender Nicole Anyomi and race in on goal. After evading a recovering Hendrich, Pugh calmly picked out the lower left corner for her 25th career goal and seventh tally of 2022. USA 2, GER 1
- The USWNT finishes 2022 with a 14-3-1 record and improved its all-time record vs. Germany to 23-4-7.
- Mallory Pugh’s goal was her seventh of 2022 and the 25th of her international career. With 27 assists to her name as well, Pugh becomes just the sixth player in USWNT history to reach 25 goals and 25 assists before her 25th The others are Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow Cone, Alex Morgan, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett.
- The world champion U.S. Soccer Cerebral Palsy Women’s National Team was honored before the game for winning the inaugural CP Women’s World Cup, the first-ever world championship trophy for women’s CP soccer.
For more information on the U.S. Soccer team fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: