SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Megan Rapinoe and Trinity Rodman stood side by side at the top of a stairwell waiting to return to the field for some final cheers and fanfare before the Americans departed for the Women’s World Cup Down Under.
The Old Guard and Young Guard of U.S. Soccer are mixing, meshing. These women are still learning from each other and about each other. And U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski is confident the kinks will be worked out over the coming couple of weeks in training for the Americans to shine.
Rising star Rodman scored for U.S. in the 76th minute and again in the 88th, and the Americans finally capitalized on their many offensive chances to beat Wales 2-0 on Sunday in a final tuneup for the Women’s World Cup.
Several players are dealing with injuries so Andonovski had to adjust his lineup.
“Changes were necessary and with those changes now we’re going to need maybe a couple more weeks until we get in sync,” Andonovski said. “We’re very confident in where we’re at right now and we can see how good we’re likely going to look and when that happens it’s going to look good.”
First, Rodman broke up a scoreless tie when she one-touched a pass from Sophia Smith then later emphatically delivered again to provide a glimpse of Americans’ youth movement headed to the big stage in Australia and New Zealand.
Smith corralled a pretty ball from Lynn Williams — who subbed in during the 64th minute — sent from the center circle and raced past her defender on the left side to find a charging Rodman for the initial goal.
Rodman, the highly touted 21-year-old forward, set up her own shot the next time. She entered for Alex Morgan to begin the second half challenged by Andonovski to raise the pace.
“This team does a really good job of setting a standard,” Rodman said over the chants of “USA! USA!” an hour after the final whistle.
Rodman doubled her number of goals for the U.S. to give her four over 18 matches for the Americans — and she even had another chance on a header in the 74th. The U.S. hardly looked in sync for much of the afternoon less than two weeks from the World Cup opener but the backups brought some new energy.
Andonovski is mixing and matching lineups featuring veterans and unproven new talent on the 23-woman World Cup roster with nine returners from the 2019 World Cup champion team and 14 players making their debut on the biggest world stage.
Alana Cook nearly found the net on a header in the 68th minute that Wales forward Kayleigh Green headed away near the post and Sofia Huerta had a nice look in the 73rd minute.
Alyssa Thompson missed from just outside the penalty box in the 61st minute — so it was a game of missed chances on a picture-perfect Bay Area afternoon for the sold-out friendly match that had its share of physical moments and hard hits.
A scrappy Wales team fought on its defensive end to limit the Americans’ chances for open looks at the net yet the U.S. did get ample chances to work on various set pieces throughout the game. The Welsh didn’t manage their first shot until the 74th minute on an attempt by Hannah Cain.
Wales defender Lily Woodham exited briefly and was examined by medical personnel following a head-to-head collision with Alyssa Thompson in the 23rd minute that gave Woodham a swollen right eye immediately. And forward Carrie Jones took a shoe to the head moments before the halftime whistle.
A day after Rapinoe announced she will retire after her fourth World Cup and finish the National Women’s Soccer League season with the OL Reign, the 38-year-old forward didn’t get on the field as a precaution with her nursing a calf injury over the past month. She received huge cheers when she came outside for warmups and again running through the tunnel after going through her pregame routine.
“One thing people know about P is it’s hard to know what age she is because she fits in so well with everybody on the team,” said defensive leader Crystal Dunn. “And that’s the kind of veteran-ship and leadership we have on this team is we want to stay connected to the young ones, they’re always teaching us new things, these new TikToks that are out. We’re trying to stay young and hip and I think it’s important as a team we’re one unit.”
Rapinoe will have to wait for the World Cup to make her 200th career national team appearance over a 17-year career with the Americans — and will become just the 14th U.S. player to reach the mark.
Rapinoe debuted in the 2011 Germany World Cup and also played in 2015 in Canada and France four years ago. She and the Americans are chasing a third straight title when the Women’s World Cup opens July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.
Instead of seeing Rapinoe, the home fans in a sellout crowd of 18,000 were treated to their first chance seeing Rodman at PayPal Park, home of the MLS San Jose Earthquakes.
Midfielder Savannah DeMelo entered midway through the second half for her first career appearance with the Americans, who are 8-0-0 this year outscoring opponents 19-1.
The U.S. will begin group stage play in Group E facing Vietnam on July 22 at Auckland’s Eden Park. The Americans face 2019 runner-up The Netherlands in the second match July 26 then Portugal on Aug. 1.