Ahead of Paris 2024 Olympics, USWNT beat South Korea at Allianz Field

USWNT before kickoff. (photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

On Tuesday, June 4, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) played South Korea at Allianz Field in St. Paul, MN, the second of two friendlies between the two teams. The first was this past Saturday in which the USWNT beat Korea 4-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. Prior to these two friendlies, the senior U.S. women had not played since April when they beat Japan and then Canada 3-2 in the final of the SheBelieves Cup.

While in the Twin Cities, the USWNT stopped by a Minnesota Lynx practice to shoot around and get some photos. Speaking of local teams, members of Minnesota Aurora FC and PWHL Minnesota made it to Allianz Tuesday night Women supporting women.

Although the South Koreans showed improvement in this second match in four days, the USWNT won the Minnesota leg 3-0. Crystal Dunn scored only 13 minutes into the contest. However, it took 54 minutes and four fresh substitutes for the U.S. to score again via Sophia Smith. Smith is no stranger to the USWNT or scoring, but the final goal came from a player new to the senior U.S. crest. Late in the game, 16-year-old Lily Yohannes scored in her USWNT debut.

Under the Hayes’ Umbrella

The last time these two teams played in St. Paul, MN was also a second leg of two friendlies. After a 0-0 draw at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas, the USWNT beat South Korea 6-0 on October 26, 2021. Vlatko Andonovski coached those matches for the USWNT, but he resigned after a Round of 16 exit in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. This was the earliest exit for the U.S. Women in any World Cup or Olympics. USWNT assistant coach Twila Kilgore became the interim manager while the U.S. Soccer Federation searched for a new head coach.

London-born Emma Hayes was named the new head coach in November 2023; however, she did not join the USWNT until completing the 2023-24 season with Chelsea FC. This spring Chelsea won their 7th Women’s Super League (WSL) title; all seven have come under Hayes as head coach. Hayes also led Chelsea to all five of the club’s Women’s FA Cup titles.

Before Hayes was winning trophies for Chelsea and as an assistant at Arsenal, she spent much of her early coaching days in the United States: Long Island Lady Rider (original USL W-League), Iona University Women’s (NCAA DI), Chicago Red Stars (WPS), and Western NY Flash (WPS). In October 2020, Hayes went on the Chelsea Mike-d Up podcast and explained, “I’ve worked in America for ten years. So, there’s always a little part of America in my heart.”

Later she emphasized, “Well, I was born in England, but I was definitely made in America.” She explained how her diverse experiences in the U.S. prepared her:

“I think the opportunities I was given as a collegiate coach, as W-League coach, as a WPS coach, as a regional coach, as a state coach, as youth club coach was that it gave me the platform to improve my abilities as a coach because I was exposed to so much, whether it was boys under-12 teams to being an analyst to being technical director the Western NY Flash. So I learned to do everything: recruitment, the whole thing. So coming back to England, it just armed me with so much more than a coaching license.”

Emma Hayes kept interim manager and former midfielder Twila Kilgore as an assistant. She also brought two assistants from her Chelsea staff. Former center back Denise Reddy was born in New Jersey but has coached in Sweden and Denmark. She was briefly the U.S. U20 women’s assistant in 2020 before joining Hayes at Chelsea. Hayes also brought Stuart Searle with her as a goalkeeping coach, who has worked at various levels at Chelsea since 2004.

Start-Up with Starting XIs

Starting XI, USA vs KOR [photo of Rose Lavelle on left] 1 Casey Murphy 2 Sam Staab 3 Jenna Nighswonger 5 Korbin Albert 8 Jaedyn Shaw 10 Lindsey Horan (Captain) 13 Alex Morgan 14 Emily Sonnett 16 Rose Lavelle 19 Crystal Dunn 20 Casey Krueger 8:00 PM ET TNT / truTV / Universo Max / Peacock [USA crest with 4 stars]

Only two players from the U.S.’s starting lineup in Commerce City started in St. Paul: Left fullback Jenna Nighswonger and midfielder and captain Lindsey Horan. Yet, much of the rest of the starting players had subbed in on Saturday. Three players who started on Tuesday did not see any time on Saturday: GK Casey Murphy, centerback Emily Sonnett, and center forward Alex Morgan.

Rose Lavelle celebrated her 100th cap with the USWNT. She held up a # 100 jersey to commemorate the occasion.

Hayes lined up the team in a typical 4-3-3 that gave license for players to move to other positions given the situation. Most notable were how the three midfielders (Horan, Lavelle, Albert) moved into different spaces on attack and defense and centerback Staab getting forward on a couple of attacks.

Starting XI, Korea Republic vs USA 2 Lee Eun-young 9 Lee Geum-min 10 Jo So-yun 11 Choe Yu-ri 13 Casey Yu-jin Phair 14 Jeon Eun-ha 17 Lee Young-ju 18 Kim Zhu 20 Kim Hye-ri (Captain) 22 Choo Hyo-joo 23 Kang Chae-rim SUBS: 12 names in Hangul [KFA Crest of Tiger] KOREA Play ON as ONE

South Korea kept eight players in their starting lineup. Manager Colin Bell gave starts to captain centerback Kim Hye-ri, midfielder Jeon Eun-ha, and left winger Lee Geum-min. (Geum-min now plays for Brighton & Hove Albion after spending two seasons with Manchester City.)

Next to captain Kim Hye-ri was fellow centerback Lee Young-ju who plays at Madrid CFF. #10 attacking midfielder Ji So-yun plays at Seattle Reign, but used to play for Emma Hayes at Chelsea. In front of Ji So-yun was 16-year-old U.S.-born Casey Yu-jin Phair from Angel City FC. She was the youngest player to feature in any Women’s World Cup in 2023 and is the first multiracial player to get called up for to Korean women’s national team.

Before the game, Northland Soccer had the chance to talk with two Korean fans, Jeremy and Hee-won, both wearing Korean National Team jerseys. Jeremy said that he met Lee Young-ju in Seoul and has been a fan ever since. He drew some parallels between the U.S. and Korean teams in that they both had “veterans and then young players,” and that both want “to try to build up the new generation.”

Colin Bell had the South Korean attack in a 4-2-3-1 and defend in a robust 5-4-1. A key difference from Saturday was how high the defense set up, making it more difficult for the U.S. to progress the ball through the middle third of the pitch.

Emma Hayes commented on Korea’s different look: “[I’m] encouraging the team to be patient. You have to work spaces, especially when you play [against] blocks. Korea played slightly higher tonight; so the spaces in between are a lot harder to find.”

#13 Alex Morgan turns up field to break from #20 Kim Hye-ri and #23 Kang Chae-rim, USWNT vs South Korea at Allianz Stadium on June 4, 2024 (photo by Isaac Furey)

Run On, Crystal Dunn

In the 13th minute, Alex Morgan dribbled into space with every Korean defender ceding more and more space. She passed outside to left back Nighswonger, who sent a low cross into the 6-yard box. Jaedyn Shaw made a near post run while Morgan attempted to the clear the middle with a far post run. Meanwhile, Crystal Dunn ran on to the ball and beat a sliding defender Lee Young-ju and GK Kim Jung-mi. The USWNT went up quickly 1-0.

About the goal, Dunn said, “[Jenna Nighswonger] got in line and was able to serve a really good cross, and I think I was just, you know, proactive and saw that it was coming in behind the back line. And I just stepped in front.”

On playing up front Dunn remarked, “It’s different, y’all. I mean I haven’t played forward on this team in so long, but I think at the end of day, like, you know, I try to simplify the game. You know, when I play around great players such as Rose [Lavelle], she makes my job easy.”

The South Korean defense solidified better after that first goal. The high block forced the USWNT back four to pass around the back line at midfield or risk a turnover. When Rose Lavelle got the ball, she was not given much space to dribble or turn.

My Name is Casey Murphy

One of South Korea’s best chances came off a Ji So-yun free kick. Ji curled a the ball around the USWNT wall, which required goalkeeper Casey Murphy to dive to her left to make the save.

The first half ended 1-0.

The Uncanny Counter

At the start of the second half, South Korea substituted Birmingham City midfielder Cho So-hyun for Jeon Euh-ha. However, the more noticeable substitutions came when the U.S. subbed on four players at once. The attacking front three from Saturday came on in the 62nd minute: Mallory Swanson for Lavelle, Sophia Smith for Morgan, and Trinity Rodman for Nighswonger. Midfielder Sam Coffey also came on for Horan, dropping Crystal Dunn to left fullback. In the 66th minute, South Korea also put in more-experienced Moon Mi-ra (19 national team goals) for Casey Phair.

Despite Moon’s reputation, it was the USWNT that would get the first goal of the second half with all three attacking subs involved. Lee Geum-min seemed to point for her defense to pass laterally rather than risk the ball through the midfield but the Korean back passed to Geum-min anyway. Trinity Rodman stepped in front of it to intercept, dribbled, and centered the ball to Swanson. Swanson played a slight back-heel to Smith. Smith dribbled wide left of the charging Kim Jung-mi.

Less than five minutes after subbing on, the fresh front three had produced a quick counterattack goal. Rodman, Swanson, and Smith combined to double their lead to 2-0.

#22 Trinity Rodman (photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

Dutch Street Rookie

In the 72nd minute, Emily Fox and Lily Yohannes subbed on for the U.S. Yohannes was born in Virginia but grew up on the Dutch streets of Amsterdam and plays for Ajax. In the 82nd minute the USWNT executed a short corner kick with Rodman crossing the ball on the grass on a horizontal trajectory about 10 yards from the goal. Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson both let the ball continue past them toward Yohannes, and the 16-year-old scored in her USWNT debut. The entire team circled around Yohannes to celebrate the moment. “I just took off to the corner and I see all of them running at me, just super super special and so grateful,” Yohannes said of the goal.

Yohannes is the eighth youngest player to debut for the USWNT and the third youngest player to score. Only Kristine Lilly and Tiffany Roberts were younger when they first scored for the national team. At the final whistle, the U.S. women led an improved Korean side 3-0.

USWNT celebrate after #6 Lily Yohannes (far right) sccores. (photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

Something in the Rain

On the rainy weather and atmosphere at Allianz Field, Emma Hayes was beaming: “I felt I was at home; I told the girls at the end. I love the weather personally; I was absolutely dying in Colorado the other day. So this for me was absolutely heaven. I enjoyed it: quick pitch, nights under the lights. Great crowds bought great energy, loved listening to the drum, behind the goal, felt like I was in Europe. So I better attend a few more MLS games while I’m here, love the atmosphere. It was brilliant.”

Our Beloved Summer of Soccer

Emma Hayes must now pick an 18-player roster for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, considerably more difficult than a 25-player World Cup roster. That selection will have two more friendlies to prepare for Paris: July 13 against Mexico and July 16 versus Costa Rica. The Olympic Games start on July 25. In the pandemic-postponed 2020 Tokyo games, the USWNT lost to eventual gold medalists Canada and came home with the bronze after beating Australia 4-3.

“I get excited by growth. And I’m excited for our development together. And that’s really stood out for me this week.” — Emma Hayes

After the game NSJ had the chance to talk with USWNT fan Jess at Black Hart. “Being able to see people I’ve been following for 6,7, 8 years and actually seeing them in person was incredible.” She added, “They did a great job passing. There was a lot of just like cool, good connections between players. And after they got that one score, they were able to just kind of handle the ball and kind of work on like the basics, which I think was missing in the last World Cup.”

USWNT fan Jess at BlackHart (Photo by Matthew Johnson)

The last time the USWNT won Olympic gold was the 2012 London games. Alex Morgan is the only player called up for these friendlies who was on that 2012 roster. Will she get the call again?

It will be busy summer of pro, lower league, and Olympic soccer. Northland Media will do our best to keep up with it all.


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