It may have taken them over 25 minutes to get going but once they did, the USWNT put on a show in Columbus, Ohio, A nine-one romping in the first of their two games against Uzbekistan was just what the fans would have wanted.
The usual (for 2022) frontline of Mal Pugh, Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith produced the goods, getting on the scoresheet at least once, and were ably supported by their midfield throughout the game.
Uzbekistan got a goal of their own through Aziza Norboeva (who added a solid celebration to her goal) but ultimately, weren’t able to keep up with the USWNT.
At the end of the day, Sophia Smith scored a hat trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Andi Sullivan, Mal Pugh, Catarina Macario, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Jaelin Howell.
Sophia Smith shines brightest in Ohio
Smith picked up her first goal of the game right after Andi Sullivan and Mal Pugh had opened the flood gates. Uzbekistan had toiled for 25 minutes to keep the USWNT out but some sloppy defending during a corner and right after kick off saw them down by two goals.
The pressure continued to build on the visitors’ backline and Smith profited from that high press the USWNT employed seven minutes after Sullivan had started things off. Pugh found a lot of space out wide and although her cross didn’t find Lavelle, Smith had made a late run into the box and knocked home her first into an empty net.
The Portland Thorns forward then got her second two minutes later. Uzbekistan were caught stepping up during a goal kick and Sullivan picked out Smith with a one-time pass. Smith, despite the goalkeeper rushing out to her, made her finish look easy.
Her final goal of the game came in the second half. Mal Pugh raced onto a long ball and once she had rounded the goalkeeper, picked out Smith inside the box, unmarked once again.
It was a great night for Smith, and the frontline that Vlatko Andonovski is trying to integrate at the moment. Sophia Smith got the hat trick but Mal Pugh and Catarina Macario were linking up well with Smith and creating havoc for Uzbekistan.
Jaelin Howell gets the award for best goal
Jaelin Howell probably had the best finish of the night, which incidentally was also her first goal for the USWNT. As the USWNT recycled the ball, Alana Cook was found by Pugh’s cross and her header back found Howell close to goal. The Racing Louisville midfielder then flicked her right leg at the ball and guided it over Laylo Tilovova in goal.
Howell was clearly delighted with her goal and so was everyone else who had the chance to see the close up of it on the replay. It was a great touch from a midfielder that many expect great things from.
Lastly, Aziza Norboeva may have gotten the consolation goal but her celebration was 100% worth viewing. The USWNT failed to defend a corner kick and after a deflection, the ball fell to Norboeva who reacted quickly to turn it in.
Uzbekistan will have to face the USWNT on Tuesday night and while they and the USWNT may have different players in their starting elevens, the away side will know it will not get any easier for them. As for the USWNT? It’s another strong performance for them but this time backed with the number of goals their overall play deserved. They will want to repeat the same thing on Tuesday.