The United States women’s soccer team will again look to put legal issues aside and continue to build momentum toward the Summer Olympics when facing off with Colombia in Chester, Pennsylvania on Sunday. The match will be the second since five of the squad’s leading players filed a wage discrimination complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation, and coach Jill Ellis will be eager for it to go exactly the same way as the first. In the first of two matches against Colombia, in Connecticut on Wednesday, the U.S. ran out emphatic 7-0 victors.
It was the perfect response to any suggestion that the team might let its eyes be taken off the ball just four months ahead of the quest for gold beginning in Rio de Janeiro. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo sparked headlines when accusing U.S. Soccer of paying them less than the men’s team in the latest shot of an increasingly fractious negotiation over the team’s collective bargaining agreement.
Despite that perceived lack of support, on the pitch the team continues to go from strength to strength. It is now 10 wins in a row for the 2015 World Cup champion, after the U.S. followed up lifting the trophy at the inaugural SheBelieves Cup by brushing past Colombia. And Lloyd, who scored the fourth goal in that win six minutes before halftime, stressed the team has been able to focus on the job at hand.
“We weren’t really thinking about all that stuff, because at the end of the day that stuff will work itself out,” she said afterward. “We have to continue to make sure we are putting a good result out on the field.”
The result was certainly an eye-catching one, especially considering the much tighter battle the two teams played out at the Round-of-16 stage of last year’s World Cup. Lloyd was also on the scoresheet on the occasion in a 2-0 win, as she was in the only two previous meetings between the teams, both 3-0 victories for the U.S. at the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics in London.
It is now Rio and winning a fourth successive gold medal that holds the focus of Ellis’ side. To accomplish the goal, the U.S. will also have to become the first team to follow up World Cup glory by taking Olympic gold the very next year.
Against Colombia on Wednesday, though, the signs continued to be good that it can do just that. While a number of veterans, including the highest scorer in the history of international soccer Abby Wambach, retired in the wake of becoming world champions again in Canada, the depth of talent in the U.S. continues to shine through.
In Hartford, yet another relative-fresh face made her mark, with Portland Thorns midfielder Allie Long grabbing her first two international goals.
“She had a good week of training,” Ellis said of Long. “We are still making sure we are looking for depth and she did well. She made some good decisions, got a couple goals and was impactful.”
Also impressing once again was forward Crystal Dunn, who grabbed her eighth goal in 2016 to go along with her two assists on the night. With Alex Morgan sidelined through injury, fellow attackers Mallory Pugh and Christen Press also took their chance to make a case for more minutes, both getting on the scoresheet.
Morgan is expected to be back to boost the U.S. in the second match against Colombia after overcoming a hip problem, as is midfielder Morgan Brian, who was ruled on Wednesday with a hamstring injury.
Match time: 2 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN
Live stream: Watch ESPN