COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In the first of two friendlies between the U.S. Women’s National Team and the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. dominated but left Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a misleading 2-0 victory margin.

The Americans outshot China 23-1, maintained possession, and never let the visitors find a rhythm. But fans took double-takes at the scoreboard showing 1-0 with less than 15 minutes to play. The Chinese were maintaining the one-goal limit they enforced in all four games at the Algarve Cup last month.

In the 78th minute, Megan Rapinoe finally cut the tension when she curled in a free kick for the two-goal cushion. Whitney Engen made a run through the box before Rapinoe took the kick, and the ball dipped over Engen’s head before curling off the ground and the far post into the net.

This is the first of eight paragraphs sent on spec to a soccer startup. The original story I wrote had a ton of optimistic quotes from former head coach Tom Sermanni. “Looking forward… bright future…” that sentiment. But then I learned that interim head coach Jill Ellis will take over for Sermanni, starting with the rematch against China PR in San Diego on April 10. Sermanni must have received the news after our interview. Or perhaps that was the thunder and lightning that concluded our interview with Abby too.

Coaching change aside, this team looks excellent to me. I noticed Morgan Brian first. She won balls in the middle of the field, and every time she touched it to someone, she attacked to get it back. Even when she had to move into a conservative supporting position to get the ball back, she was still attacking somehow. I don’t think I saw her get beat all afternoon, and I’ve never seen a center midfielder attack so relentlessly, on the counter or really whenever she got the ball.

Actually, all 10 field players showed the same intensity on every play. They closed down immediately to get the ball back, and with a lot of success in the final third. The first goal came from Sydney Leroux’s pressure on goalkeeper Zhang Yue. Leroux tackled the ball, and it popped to a defender, but Heather O’Reilly ran onto it. O’Reilly got it back again after having her shot blocked. She attacked for another shot, but calmly cut it back and laid it off for Ali Krieger because she was closed down. Krieger’s shot was also blocked, and Lauren Holiday buried the rebound in the lower left corner.

But of all the attacking and counterattacking from every field player, Carli Lloyd gets top prize. When she lost the ball while dribbling, her body language looked like no one told her she didn’t have possession. She just kept moving and got it back, often pushing forward in the process. On one play in the first half, she lost the ball and was seated on the ground, but she got up and stole it back as if it was her plan all along. She also attacks like a striker, scoring 48 goals in 169 games.

This team is simply good. China doesn’t let people score, and they knocked it around pretty efficiently, even though they didn’t have much of an attacking presence. I’d like to see a rematch with Sweden or Denmark to avenge the Algarve Cup losses. When WC qualifiers start this fall, we’ll see where the team is headed. The smart money says they’re headed to goal.

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