Ferns come up short against US
The Football Ferns’ search for a second win against the United States goes on, after a 3-1 loss in Denver, Colorado, yesterday.
Two first-half goals from Julie Ertz had left the US looking comfortable at halftime but Hannah Wilkinson hit back with 15 minutes remaining to set up a tense finish, only for Alex Morgan to then put the game to bed soon after.
The Ferns weren’t outclassed by the world No 1 in their first outing since the start of March, and did well to limit the hosts’ chances.
But the Kiwis’ inability to fashion chances of their own is the big area to improve on, heading into the second match between the two on Wednesday. The Ferns have beaten the US just once, in 1987.
The Ferns unveiled a new 4-4-2 diamond system, with Katie Bowen at the base in midfield, Betsy Hassett at the tip, Annalie Longo and Kirsty Yallop to either side; and Wilkinson and Rose White up top, taking turns to drop off when they were out of possession.
The biggest weakness of using a diamond is its lack of natural width in midfield, and it was clear from early on that the US would be looking to take advantage of that, with Megan Rapinoe finding plenty of space down the left flank.
It was from a corner won by Rapinoe that the US took the lead, in the 16th minute. The Ferns failed to clear it properly, and it fell to Kelly O’Hara, who sent the ball back into the right side of the box, where Lindsey Horan headed it down and Ertz squeezed between Meikayla Moore and Bowen to fire it home.
Eight minutes later, it was Ertz again, to double the hosts’ advantage, firing home the rebound after Rapinoe had sent a header into the left-hand upright, meeting a cross from Mallory Pugh that came at the end of a 15-pass sequence, where Ertz touched the ball three times.
The Ferns halved the margin in the 74th minute, when Wilkinson bravely headed past keeper Alyssa Naeher.
Even at 35, power forward Mika Vukona is sure he can make a meaningful contribution to the Breakers’ upcoming Australian NBL campaign .