ST. LOUIS (AP) — The back line hogged the spotlight all day for the United States women’s team.
Defenders Meghan Klingenberg, Lori Chalupny and Julie Johnston scored in the U.S.’s dominant 4-0 exhibition victory over New Zealand on Saturday.
“It’s not just about defending, it’s also about adding to the attack and being creative out there,” Chalupny said. “It’s not surprising, actually, it’s kind of the way we play.”
Klingenberg scored early before the U.S. busted the game wide open after the half when Chalupny, Johnston and midfielder Morgan Brian scored in a span of five minutes in the World Cup warmup.
“Overall, l was pleased coming in at halftime,” coach Jill Ellis said. “It’s kind of one those things, you feel like you’re knocking and eventually the dam’s going to kind of break.”
U.S. goalie Hope Solo had a light workload and didn’t have to make any saves. New Zealand was limited to two harmless corner kicks and just two shots.
“It’s a really cool atmosphere and stuff,” New Zealand forward Katie Bowen said. “We didn’t perform as well as we’d hoped. Obviously, playing a team like that, No. 2, we get a lot of learnings out of it.”
Attendance of 35,817 at Busch Stadium was the most ever for a women’s stand-alone friendly at home and the third biggest for a home friendly.
Klingenberg called the turnout “freakin’ awesome!”
“It’s just incredible,” Chalupny said. “The atmosphere out there was awesome. We kind of looked around as a team like, ‘Let’s just soak this in for a second.'”
The U.S. has three more exhibitions prior to the World Cup, the next on May 10 against Ireland in San Jose, California. Seeded second, the U.S. opens World Cup play June 8 against Australia in Winnipeg. New Zealand is ranked 17th.
The U.S. is 11-1-1 against New Zealand and has outscored the Kiwis 47-4 since the lone loss, a 1-0 setback in the first meeting in 1987.
Due to flight delays, New Zealand’s trip to the Midwest took about 53 hours, but the players said they weren’t overly disappointed and planned to go to the Gateway Arch on Monday before the return trip.
Klingenberg scored her second goal in 30 career games on a 25-yard drive in the 14th minute, capitalizing on a header clearing attempt by New Zealand. Chalupny scored in the 76th minute, Johnston knocked in a header in the 78th minute and Brian scored off the far post in the 81st minute.
Chalupny, one of two St. Louis natives on the roster, and Brian were second-half reserves. Chalupny said the goal was a bigger deal than throwing out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game in 2009.
This was the first match for the U.S. since beating France 2-0 in the Algarve Cup final in early March.
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn, also from St. Louis, left about 50 tickets for family and friends.
“We could not have asked for a better crowd, a better day, a better score,” Sauerbrunn said. “It was just kind of I think the best experience I’ve ever had on a soccer field.”
NOTES: St. Louis has hosted five soccer exhibitions since May 23, 2013, when Manchester City beat Chelsea 4-3 before a Busch Stadium record crowd of 48,263. … Midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who had an assist, became the 31st American female player to play in 100 games. Rapinoe didn’t play much in the Algarve Cup due to injuries. “I feel like I have my feet back under me now,” Rapinoe said. Chalupny has played in 99 games.