After losing the first of a pair friendlies against Germany last week, a loss that extended their losing streak to a concerning three matches, the U.S. women’s national team made the most of their second crack at Germany on Sunday night, winning 2–1 thanks to standout performances from several of the team’s young players. Forward Sophia Smith, 22, scored the equalizer in the second half; her former Stanford teammate, defender Naomi Girma, 22, helped stave off Germany’s free-flowing offense; and forward Mallory Pugh, 23, scored the go-ahead goal.
Smith, Girma, and Pugh, along with midfielder Catarina Macario, who is currently injured, are several of the USWNT youngsters who are expected to join veterans like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn at the World Cup next summer. Much has been made of the ongoing generational shift (for the sourest possible take, tune into former USWNT player Carli Lloyd), and while the adjustment has been about as challenging as these changes tend to be, Sunday night’s win should at least give the USWNT a boost of confidence heading into the World Cup.
After dropping an early goal in the first half, a crafty shot from Smith put the U.S. on the board, and Smith in some good company.
Girma, meanwhile, impressed at center back. Alongside Sauerbrunn, she weathered Germany’s attacking offense in the second half with a steadiness that should reserve her spot on the World Cup roster. Watching her shore up the USWNT’s defensive line, it was difficult to believe Sunday night’s game was only her 10th cap for the national team.
And Pugh, who first appeared for the national team when she was only 17, was everywhere; her speed stretching Germany’s defense and deft touches creating open look after look for herself, Morgan, and Smith, as well as midfielders Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan.
The USWNT has two final friendly tune-ups before the World Cup kicks off in July. They’ll play New Zealand on Jan. 17 and Jan. 20.