There were a number of debuts on June 14 as the US Women’s National Soccer Team returned to Florida for an international friendly against France at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Sunshine State has been a favorite venue of the US women, as they have played five international friendlies here since 2012. However, it marked the team’s first trip to Tampa since a 1-0 win over South Korea in 2008.
The crowd of 9,799 was the largest ever to see a US women’s game in Tampa, and might have been bigger if torrential rains and lightning had not delayed the start of the match.
The FIFA No. 1 ranked US WNT couldn’t wait to debut their new red, white, and blue striped away uniforms. Only problem was, there wasn’t going to be an away game for a while. So, they donned their new away kits anyway against FIFA No. 4 ranked France.
The game was also the official debut for Jill Ellis as US national team head coach. After two stints as interim coach in which she guided the women to a 6-0-2 record, Ellis was finally named the eighth US WNT head coach on May 16.
In the 21st minute, Christen Press sent a ball in to Sydney Leroux, who fended off a French defender’s high kick, then controlled it and slotted it home under French keeper Sarah Boulhaddi. Despite a lackluster second half for the US, the goal held up for a 1-0 win.
“We just played a tremendous opponent; so, it’s very meaningful,” Ellis said. “I thought we did some really good things tonight. I’m very, very proud of these players, and we enjoyed a good crowd.”
Leroux has been a key scorer for the US WNT in the absence of Alex Morgan, out since Nov. 10, 2013 with a stress fracture in her ankle. Leroux has seven goals in international play already this year. Morgan entered the game as a sub in the 49th minute to thunderous applause, and played well despite not being match fit.
“Alex has been out for a long time, but we have to try to get here in now. It’s a process,” Ellis said. “Bringing her into this camp, I was wondering how much I’d get out of her. So, I was pleased we were able to get her in and get her some minutes on the field. Now, it’s a matter of integrating her back into the attack.”
Abby Wambaugh, the world’s all-time leading scorer with 167 goals, did not see the pitch in Tampa due to an injury suffered during a National Women’s Soccer League game on June 1.
While the American attack looked dangerous at times against France, there were also a few stressful moments for the US defense. French winger Elodie Thomis showed her speed in numerous runs up the right side, but Hope Solo was able to notch her 71st career shutout, tying her with Briana Scurry for the most in US history.
Solo said while the record has been in the back of her mind, and she is proud of what she has accomplished, she never thinks about it during a match.
“Honestly, I can’t think about the record during the game. If I do that, I tend to get scored on,” she said. “It was all about just good team defensive shape. France is a great counterattacking team. I take my hat off to my defenders. They did an awesome job.”
Solo said she still has strong ties to Tampa, since she is married to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Jerramy Stevens. Solo’s 71 shutouts have come in 152 appearances since she has played for the WNT beginning in 2000. Briana Scurry’s 71 shutouts spanned 173 caps from 1994-2008.