AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The winning was expected for the U.S. women’s national team. The harder part for coach Vlatko Andonovski may be trimming the roster to the final 18 players for the Olympics.
Christen Press scored late in the first half, Lynn Williams added a goal in the final moments and the U.S. wrapped its Summer Series with a 2-0 victory over Nigeria on Wednesday night in the last match before setting the Tokyo lineup.
And after sweeping three shutout victories, Andonovski likes the depth and talent available to choose from on the world’s No. 1 squad, no matter who gets the final call.
“The confidence level going to the Olympics is higher than it was before. I feel good where we are at. In terms of making final decisions, I feel pretty good,” Andonovski said.
Temperatures were in the low 90s at kickoff and while the U.S. dominated possession throughout, it created few chances at goal until Press finally broke through in added time at the end of the first half.
A failed clearance by Nigeria fell to Carli Lloyd to tap the ball past a defender to Press, who was left wide open and hit a left-footed strike to the opposite corner just past the fingertips of diving goal keeper Tochukwu Oluehi.
Career goal No. 61 was another impressive moment from Press, who had one goal and three assists in the Summer Series and has been directly involved in 34 of the last 36 goals for the national team.
Press later assisted on the score by Williams, who came on in the 88th minute and slipped the ball past Oluehi on a breakaway.
“I feel very happy with where I am,” Press said. “”This is a stepping stone (to Tokyo).”
The U.S. women are 9-0-1 this year are and undefeated in 42 matches. The team is undefeated in 56 games on American soil.
The U.S. lineup against Nigeria featured six changes from the previous matchup against Jamaica, with Alyssa Naeher back in goal and Kristie Mewis in midfield for Rose Lavelle, who rolled ankle Sunday in a 4-0 win over Jamaica and left that game as a precaution. Andonovski said after the Nigeria match he expects Lavelle will be ready to play.
Naeher recorded her 42nd career shutout and 13th in her last 14 appearances. She had a mostly quiet night behind a defense that quickly shut down what little possession Nigeria could manage in the U.S. half of the field.
The lineup Andonovski selects for Tokyo is scheduled to play two pre-Olympics warmup matches before facing rival Sweden on July 21 in Japan. The U.S. is the reigning World Cup champion but will be looking for some Olympic redemption after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals by Sweden in 2016 in Brazil.
Stars like Press and Megan Rapinoe are set for the Games. But to trim the roster from 23 to 18 means some will be nervously awaiting the decisions that will determine their national team future.
The games of the Summer Series were their last chance to shine and now the waiting starts.
Veteran center back Becky Sauerbrunn said she told Andonovski that players on the bubble will appreciate honesty in the selection process above all else.
“There are nerves, people will be getting phones calls,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think we’ve got an amazing team. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll have a team that can win everything.”
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