Johnston Brace Seals USA v Colombia Win in Pennsylvania

With a somewhat experimental team chosen by Jill Ellis, the United States Women's National Team netted three goals against the same Colombia team they'd crushed 7-0 less than a week earlier.

Tobin Heath started as an outside back, bursting forward and rushing back to defend when (rarely) necessary. Hope Solo got to watch Alyssa Naeher start in goal. With Morgan Brian having been sent back to Houston with a lingering hamstring injury, Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis partnered in the center midfield. The changes seemed to unsettle the team a bit, and it took a while for them to settle into a rhythm. 

Christen Press started the scoring in the 26th minute with a deft flick of her toe to lift the ball softly over and around keeper Catalina Perez. The remaining goals came from center back Julie Johnston.

Since entering the team, Julie Johnston has been a reliable source of goals. Every one of them has come from set pieces. Under sparkling skies and in front of a sellout crowd (17,275 attendees), Johnston found the net twice. Both goals arrived via redirected Tobin Heath free kicks. 

USA 1-0 COL

On a quick move along the left sideline, Lindsey Horan spun and sent a ball up and over Colombia's back line, where it bounced once directly in to the path of Christen Press. As Perez rushed forward to collect it, Press had only the option to poke it over her, which she did with excellent control. Crystal Dunn followed the floating strike to make sure it found the net, but her assistance was not required, and the Americans were on the scoresheet after 25 minutes.

USA 2-0 COL

Julie Johnston lives for set pieces. Indeed, they're the only goals she's ever notched at the international level. So, why not start compiling them at a more rapid pace? Her first of the afternoon came courtesy of Tobin Heath's free kick delivery into an open part of the box. JJ had burst towards the right as soon as Heath unleashed her service. She snuck inside her marker, picked out the airborne ball and struck it first time as she leaned backwards for balance. The ball carried over Perez to double the lead.

USA 3-0 COL

Another Tobin Heath free kick, another Julie Johnston set piece goal. Connecting on a diving header as the clock struck the 78th minute, Johnston sent Heath's low cross to the far post, wrong-footing Perez for the goal. Her effort to elude her markers and get into position was impressive. She continues to develop into one of the better dangerous defenders in women's soccer.

The Waiting Game Begins

Over the past few weeks, much of the coverage of the team has centered on the EEOC action by five players. But after this match, coach Jill Ellis has to start to narrow down her squad selection for the Olympic Games. She's indicated she will invite Christie Rampone to the next camp ahead of the (sold out in 1 hour) June matches vs. Japan in Colorado. This is almost certainly to give the long-time captain a chance to retire with a proper send-off. 

NWSL final squads are due on Monday, which will end the careers of some players. With only 18 spots to fill on the Olympic roster, Ellis may choose to see how the "bubble" players perform in the opening months of the NWSL season before making her final choices. But once the camp roster for June is announced, it should be fairly clear which players will be on the Road to Rio. I'll make my predictions later in the week.