CHULA VISTA, California - Well, they warmed ‘em up for you U20s; now it’s your turn.
The U.S. U18 Women’s National Team sharpened its cleats against the Shanghai Women’s Football Club of China on Monday in what was the equivalent of little sister getting the first crack at the neighborhood’s new competition.
The Chinese visitors made the trip across the Pacific to play a pair against the 18s as well the elder U20s, and in the opening action baby sis faired quite well, earning a 0-0 tie against their veteran opponent at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
And if Shanghai thought it had its hands full on Monday, just wait until they see the 20s in a few days.
“The bar has been set a little bit for the 20s to get after them,” said Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs who brought the U18s together this week. “The concept of this camp was to set something up for our U20s. China wanted to play three or four games so we figured we’d give them a go.”
And despite facing a team of women that featured Chinese National players and a couple members in their 30s, the U18s rose to the occasion.
Having only arrived two days ago, early rust was evident as the team was thrown into the fire. The distribution was far from sharp in the early going, particularly from the backline.
Stephanie Amack, Katie Naughton, Alexis Shaffer and Ryan Walker got starts in the defense and they managed to turn things around.
Superior in their possession play, Shanghai found space in the middle of the field but was turned back when they played long balls through the air.
Walker was effective in this department. With her athleticism she was able to win the 50-50s and keep things moving in the U.S. direction.
Courtney Raetzman – who started alongside fellow attackers, Janine Beckle, Anna McClung
, Makenzy Doniak, Ashley Meier and Allison Wetherington – flashed her 1v1 ability up top.
Raetzman and the U.S. looked best at the end of each half where scoring chances flowed, and that probably speaks to the squad needing time to find a rhythm.
“We’ve only been here two days and this is our first match so as the game progressed we became better and more of a unit,” McClung, a Florida State recruit from Gate City, Va., said. “We attacked and had some pretty good chances but we didn’t find the goal.”
The second half saw Shanghai nearly find it instead.
About 10 minutes in, Heinrichs sent in the reinforcements which featured the likes of Maya Theuer, Rachel Blauner
, Laura Liedle, Kodi Lavrusky and Kelli Hubly
With Amack (the only player who stayed on for the full 90) moving to the midfield for the backside of the final half, it was a different group to be sure.
Liedle worked tirelessly for possessions to set the tone for the scrappy second-half unit but they often lacked the speed to track back on defense and Shanghai got its share of looks at a goal.
The Americans dodged a few bullets and then flurried in the end by sending some shots back. Hubly, a lanky striker, got her head on more than one service that nearly changed the contest.
Lavrusky also played well and attacked willingly in the final third.
“We created enough chances to win the game,” Heinrichs said. “We’re real excited to have the Chinese team here. It’s not often we get the chance to play against women that are older and in some cases superior tactically. Given the advantages we were giving up, I’m extremely pleased with our performance.”
Now the 18s exit the stage for the U20s, but they’ll have their say again against Shanghai this weekend. And when they do they’re looking to change the conversation.
“Come Sunday,” McClung said. “We’re looking for goals.”
U.S. U18 WNT Camp Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Laura Glew (SC Del Sol; Chandler, Ariz.), Katelyn Rowland (UCLA; Vacaville, Calif.), Andi Tostanoski (Pride Predator; Colorado Springs, Co.)
Stephanie Amack (Mustang Blast; Pleasanton, Calif.), Rachel Blauner
(South Shore Select FC; East Bridgewater, Mass.), Laura Liedle (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Naughton (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Alexis Shaffer (CASL; Cary, N.C.), Maya Theuer (San Diego Surf; Carlsbad, Calif.), Brittany Von Rueden (FC Milwaukee Nationals; Mequon, Wis.), Ryan Walker (Mustang Blast; Oakland, Calif.), Christen Westphal (Cleveland Internationals SC; Brecksville, Ohio)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Rachel Conners
(Real So Cal; Moorpark, Calif.), Isabelle Farrell (Crossfire Premier, Bellevue, Wash.), Ashley Meier (Cleveland Whitecaps; Strongsville, Ohio), Reilly Parker (Mustang Blast; Danville, Calif.), Gabrielle Seiler (Concorde Fire SC; Peachtree, Ga.), Allison Wetherington (Concorde Fire SC; Acworth, Ga.)
Janine Beckie (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Makenzy Doniak (Slammers FC; Chino Hills, Calif.), Kelli Hubly
(Sockers FC; Elk Grove, Ill.), Kodi Lavrusky (Legends FC; Yucaipa, Calif.), Anna McClung
(GSA Phoenix; Gate City, Va.), Courtney Raetzman (Sockers FC; Elk Grove, Ill.)