Christen Press has played every attacking position for the United States during Olympic qualifying tournament, and so far, she’s been effective just about everywhere. Her best performance was on Monday night when she scored two goals to help the U.S. defeat Costa Rica 6-0 and win Group A. The U.S. will compete on Friday in the semifinal match for a berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Press started as a left forward on Monday and chipped in her third goal of the tournament in just the fourth minute when Carli Lloyd sent a flick header into Press’ path down the right side of the field. Press settled the ball and ran at the Costa Rica defense down the right flank before tricking almost everyone on the field when she cut the ball suddenly to her left foot. Press struck the ball into the upper left corner to give the U.S. an early lead.
Her second goal came in the 36th minute and once again featured dynamic work down the flank, a cheeky cutback, and a savvy finish. Ali Krieger served a ball down the left wing and Press settled it, cut the ball toward the middle of the field and then struck a right-footed shot into the right post. Press has scored in five-straight games for the U.S. and this was her eighth multi-goal game in her career.
She finished the game with two goals, four shots, one assist, and an 88% passing accuracy. This was Press’ first full 90-minute game of the tournament and she looked strong both as an outside attacking player and as a central forward when head coach Vlatko Andonovski made changes to the lineup in the second half.
In the 64th minute he subbed out Julie Ertz for Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd for Megan Rapinoe. Andonovski had Lindsey Horan drop into a defensive midfield role, Heath in an attacking midfield position, and Press as the target forward.
While Press didn’t score any goals in the second half, her movement in the final third supported a duo of goals in the later part of the game. Mewis checked into the box and received a pass from Emily Sonnet. Mewis then dribbled to the end line before whipping it across the box into the path of McDonald to tap in for the 5-0 lead. Press staying centrally here helped draw in and stress Costa Rica’s center backs which as a result helped open up space for Mewis and McDonald to run through unmarked.
Right time, right place for Jess McDonald. pic.twitter.com/rXZLkB3NQf— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) February 4, 2020
In the 82nd minute the U.S. sealed the game at 6-0 thanks to a header finish from Mewis. This time Press slipped out wide and Mewis popped centrally where she was able to connect with Kelley O’Hara’s lofted service in the six-yard box.
Is Press more effective on the flank? Yes. And that isn’t just because she scored two from that spot on Monday, but because when she dribbles with pace centrally from the wing very few defenders know what to do. She plays a consistent supportive role as a center forward, but Lloyd perhaps was more directly effective there on Monday. Lloyd earned two assists on the night, both in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The U.S. now have just a few short days before they face the winner of Group B at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, and in each game the attack has looked more cohesive and explosive. After the game Press spoke with reporters and said, “I think for us we came off a long break and each game we’re looking for wins first and improvement in performance, and I think we felt that through these first three games.”
Individually too, Press’ performance has improved. In the first match against Haiti she started on the right side and although she chipped in a goal she finished the match with a 68% passing accuracy, three shots off, and only one on target. Against Panama her passing accuracy improved to 86% and she also got a goal on the night, but only played about 30 minutes.
Entering Friday’s match, the U.S. are thriving on the attacking front with 18 goals in the tournament, five from Horan and four from Press respectively. The U.S. will likely be challenged more on the defensive front against the winner of Group B being either Canada or Mexico, however Andonvoski should feel good knowing as long as Press and Horan are on the pitch, his side will get goals.