CARSON, Calif. – “That’s a pretty good U23 team,” new U.S. U20 Women’s National Team head coach Michelle French remarked after the game with a smile.
French’s younger squad had just been trounced by a 5-0 score in a scrimmage against the U23 WNT coached by Randy Waldrum.
Wake Forest forward Katie Stengel scored twice to lead the older group in the attack. Virginia midfielder Morgan Brian, Cal State Stanislaus(w) forward Karenee Demery, and former Princeton forward Jennifer Hoy all added a goal each.
Stengel opened the scoring in the opening five minutes when she punched in a rebound after U20 goalkeeper Jane Campbell blocked a close shot from North Carolina winger Kealia Ohai. The talented Tar Heel was sent in behind the defense by an excellent ball from Florida State defender Kassey Kallman.
Brian doubled the lead when she finished off another rebound that Campbell could not hold onto. Ohai ripped down the left side of the U20 defense after she picked off a lazy pass. The Tar Heel found Stengel open 10 yards from goal just over the center of the box. Campbell came off her line to cut down Stengel’s angle, but the shot was too powerful and pushed through her diving attempt. Brian was there to clean up the mess and tuck it home.
The older squad put the game away minutes later when Stengel buried a shot from 25 yards out into the upper corner of the net for her second goal of the game. The U23 WNT carried a 3-0 advantage into the first intermission and never looked back, as the younger squad struggled to complete passes out of the back against the more experience (and decorated) midfield and attack of the U23s.
“Those three that we played in there were from the U20 team that won the World Cup,” Waldrum told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “The three really took control of the game early on.”
The trio consisted of Illinois Vanessa DiBernardo, UCLA Sarah Killion, and Brian. Waldrum also referenced the fluidity of the midfield as all of them roamed between the defensive and attacking roles in the triangles.
“It was kind of surprising that we got on top so quick, but this is a young group of U20s so they needed this too. It was a good game for both of us.”
In the second period, substitute striker Morgan Marlborough executed a sublime turn at the corner of the box and then played a great square ball for Demery to tap into the net.
The U23s capped the scoring five minutes later after some miscommunication among the U20 defense led to Hoy picking up a sloppy back pass, rounding the keeper, and finishing into the open net.
“We have so many attacking minded players in the midfield that when they get the ball they just want to go forward and that leaves the defense vulnerable,” French told TopDrawerSoccer.com after the game. “We talked a lot about that going into the third period – let’s just have the two holding players stay so we have options on where to play out.”
The U20s did have options to play out in the final period and held the squad scoreless for the 30 minutes.
PSG striker Lindsey Horan had the best chance to get the younger squad on the board when she picked off a bad pass and tried to immediately punish the mistake, but goalkeeper Jami Kranich came up with a kick save and preserved the shutout for the U23s.
“Considering the newness of some of the players – we brought some new faces in – and considering we aren’t together regularly I was really pleased with the performance,” Waldrum said about the outing. “I thought they really did well with some of the things that we have been working on.”
“You never want to give up that many goals,” French said. “At the same time, the focus this week has been individual defending and defending in pairs. So for me as a coach and for them, it is about keeping the eye on the prize – how did we do in those categories.”
The new U20 coach added that she plans to work on defending for the rest of the week as she gets a handle on the group with a number of new players as well.
Jane Campbell; Hanna Gardner, Katie Naughton, Cari Roccaro, Laura Liedle; Andi Sullivan (captain), Danielle Weatherholt, Rose Lavelle; Makenzy Doniak, Lindsey Horan, Amber Munerlyn
Jami Kranich; Kassey Kallman, Abby Dahlkemper, Toni Pressley, Maegan Kelly; Sarah Killion, Morgan Brian, Vanessa DiBernardo; Kealia O’Hai, Katie Stengel, Chioma Ubogagu