All three former-Cardinal appeared in the United States Women’s National Team 3-0 victory over South Africa in Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. The international friendly featured the reigning Women’s World Cup champion U.S., who will be seeking their fourth title in June, and South Africa, who will be making their first World Cup appearance in France.
Kelley O’Hara ‘09 and Christen Press ‘10 both appeared in the starting lineup for the USWNT. O’Hara won the MAC Hermann Trophy given to the nation’s best soccer player in her senior year, during which she led the nation in goals (26) and points (65). A year later, Press matched O’Hara’s goal total, once again finishing first in the sport, while also compiling 60 points and a MAC Hermann Trophy award.
Press still dons 23, her number during her time on the Farm, while O’Hara, in her transition from forward to right back, has acquired the number five. It was the former Cal star, Alex Morgan, who was named captain for the game by head coach Jill Ellis.
This was the first game the team had played since Ellis announced the 23-player roster that will travel to France.
“Now that [Ellis] has named the roster, we know that these are the 23 players that are going to France together, and hopefully win a World Cup. It’s the time when we really come together,” O’Hara said.
In the first half, midfielder Julie Ertz played with gauze in her mouth after splitting her lower lip in the opening minutes. With the help of butterfly stitches at halftime, she was able to play the entire game.
“There’s no one else like Julie,” Ellis said. “I can’t speak enough about her.”
Although Ertz’s husband, the Stanford alum Zach Ertz ‘12, is a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. Julie Ertz was the first of the couple to appear in a game at the new 49ers home stadium when she started Sunday.
O’Hara, as well as the left back Crystal Dunn, played in an advanced position as South Africa was content to sit back with numbers behind the ball.
“I feel very comfortable in the final third. I like being in the attack,” O’Hara said. “I like getting up there, and with our system it is very fluid.”
In attack, Press put incisive through balls towards both Morgan and Tobin Heath, but struggled to connect on three occasions.
“First half was a little bit sloppy, a little bit rusty,” Ellis said. “We need to clean some things up in terms of final pass.”
In the 24th minute, O’Hara, who is recovering from an ankle injury, was slow to get up after being taken down in the box, but the foul was not granted due to a preceding offsides call. O’Hara finished the half, and said her ankle felt good after 45 minutes.
The Americans opened scoring in the 37th minute, when midfielder Samantha Mewis created space for herself at the top of the box. The assist was from fellow midfielder Rose Lavelle, and the shot was buried in the lower right corner to beat South Africa’s goalkeeper, Andile Dlamini. Despite retaining 67 percent of possession, the shot was just the team’s third at the time, and the first on frame.
“She’s a dynamic player than can impact a game,” Ellis said. “When you go to a World Cup … you need to have players that can score goals from distance that can get in the box [and] that can obviously play make. There’s versatility to Sam.”
In the first minute of first half stoppage time, South Africa staged a counterattack off an American corner kick, but a shot from distance off the foot of Sibulele Holweni missed wide left.
“Physically, there was a good commitment from us in terms of containing a team that is pretty good in transition,” Ellis said.
Tierna Davidson ‘20, who left Stanford after fall quarter last year to prepare for the World Cup and to play professionally, entered as one of three substitutions made by Ellis to start the second half. Despite predominantly playing in the center of the pitch while on the Farm, either in the midfield or on the back line, Davidson replaced O’Hara at left back, bringing Dunn across the pitch to right back.
Hailing from nearby Menlo Park, Davidson has often played in front of a hometown crowd, and did so once again for the 22,788 in attendance in Santa Clara.
The other two substitutes were Megan Rapinoe replacing Heath, moving Press to right wing, and Allie Long spelling Abby Dahlkemper, pushing a still-bloody Ertz to center back. Dahlkemper and Davidson attended the same high school, Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, but Dahlkemper had left for UCLA by the time Davidson entered as a freshman in 2012.
“This is the first team we’ve had that anyone can play anywhere because we all understand the different roles,” O’Hara said. “We’re just extremely versatile, and we’re a threat in all areas of the field.”
In the 60th minute, Carli Lloyd, the Golden Ball winner at the most recent World Wup, took the captain’s armband from Morgan at the same time as Emily Sonnett replaced Rose Lavelle.
An injury forced South Africa to bring in Kaylin Swart, who played collegiately at Menlo College, at goalkeeper for Dlamini.
The homecoming for Press ended in the 77th minute when Mallory Pugh — a UCLA graduate and current Washington Spirit teammate of Andi Sullivan ‘18, Jordan DiBiasi ‘19 and Tegan McGrady ‘19 — entered as the final American substitute.
A minute later, the Americans doubled their lead. Rapinoe quickly took a free kick, and off of a return pass sent a ball across the keeper, who batted the ball into the oncoming Mewis, whose touch knocked in the goal.
“I think that it was mostly Rapinoe and that I was in the right place,” Mewis said. “It was a great service.”
“Just trying to play quickly,” Rapinoe said. “I think that we were pretty stagnant, played pretty slow today, which played into their hand.”
After starting every game of 2017, Mewis missed most of last year with an injury, but seemed to be at full strength while recording her second career brace.
“Everyone on this team has been through adversity,” Mewis said. “All of our journeys have been amazing in that they led us here. Sharing this with my teammates and sharing this with my family is the best part.”
Once again, it was Lloyd scoring as a substitute that pushed across the third and final American goal. In the second minute of added time, Pugh sent a shot towards goal that was intercepted by Lloyd, who quickly turned and rifled a low shot that nutmegged the keeper.
“Just doing my thing, trying to make a difference,” Lloyd said. “Nothing has really changed since from 2005 when I first got on this team.”
Lloyd, who has started in just one of her seven appearances this season, scored her third goal. The veteran, who will be making her fourth World Cup appearance this summer, moved into sole possession of fourth on the all-time goals list with the 108th strike of her career.
“I may get one chance up there, and it’s my job to put it away,” Lloyd said.
Alyssa Naeher, the American goalkeeper, made two saves en route to her 23rd career shutout. Naeher did not face much pressure, exemplified by South Africa’s lack of a corner kick the entire game and 30 percent possession.
“More than likely, we’ll face a team like this in the World Cup,” O’Hara said. “It’s good to get in the practice. I think we could have been a bit better today, but that’s why we have friendlies — to work on things.”
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.