Defender Johnston rock-solid in 3-1 victory over tenacious Australia
By Gunnar Berndt
Group D: USA vs. Australia 3-1
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (MID-DEF), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (FWD) – all USA
Chicago striker Christen Press was instrumental in the Americans’ 3-1 win over Australia in the team’s opening match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as the 26-year-old calmly finished a feed from Sydney Leroux early in the second half for the game winner. Meanwhile, Red Stars defender Julie Johnston put in a solid 90-minute shift at center back for the U.S. Women, helping limit the number of looks created by their opponents, who produced a tenacious performance that saw them temporarily level the match on a well-constructed Lisa De Vanna strike.
While Press and Johnston impressed in their World Cup debuts, fellow Chicago standouts Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx were unused subs for the Red, White and Blue.
In front of a heavily pro-U.S. crowd, the Matilda’s nearly drew first blood, as former Red Stars midfielder Emily van Egmond had her first-time attempt from inside the area tipped against the crossbar by goalkeeper Hope Solo. American attacking ace Megan Rapinoe made the Australians pay for the missed opportunity when she controlled the ball and spun away from her marker before releasing a deflected long-range drive that had opposition netminder Melissa Barbieri frozen on her line and found its way inside the right post.
Still in the first half, Australia created another excellent chance to score, as Samantha Kerr’s close-range volley was saved in spectacular fashion by Solo. Forward De Vanna then aimed perfectly on her equalizing goal, sending the ball inside the right post with a clinical left-footed finish on teammate Michelle Heyman’s unselfish layoff. U.S. captain Abby Wambach should have reclaimed the lead for her side just before the break, but she uncharacteristically failed to make full contact with the ball on a wide-open diving header at the doorstep following Rapinoe’s free-kick from the left.
After Press’ game-winner, fellow California native Rapinoe topped off her outstanding performance with another goal, as a stunning solo run from inside her own half and a determined finish past Barbieri saw the Americans round out the score line at 3-1. The ruthless win over a tenacious Matildas squad should serve to calm some nerves among U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis’ players ahead of the Group D blockbuster clash with fellow World Cup favorites Sweden.