U.S. women win Tom Sermanni's debut
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This was quite the debut for Tom Sermanni, and Christen Press.
Sermanni coached the U.S. women's soccer team to a 4-1 win over Scotland on Saturday, making the most of two first-half goals by Press.
It was Sermanni's first game in charge since he was hired by the U.S. Soccer Federation in October. He was born in Scotland and spent the last eight years as Australia's coach, leading the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the last two Women's World Cups.
"It's good to get the team out on the park," Sermanni said. "What impressed me was the number of chances that they got and how they can create chances at all times. At times, some of the combinations impressed me. So just the way they focus and go about doing the job and winning games is very impressive."
Press played in her first game for the national team and had a hand in each of the United States' first three goals in the exhibition at the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, scoring twice and assisting on the third.
"I was hoping that my first cap would be my first start and my first goal all in the same day," she said. "Sort of was going for the trifecta. My teammates made it really easy for me and I'm really thankful for that."
She got the Americans on the board in the 13th minute, taking advantage of a poor clearing attempt by Scotland. The ball was batted back in the direction of Press, who deftly lifted a kick over the defenders and goalkeeper Gemma Fay.
Press' second score came at the 32-minute mark. She took a pass from Tobin Heath and sent a header from 22 feet out into the left corner of the net.
The U.S. made it 3-0 early in the second half when Shannon Boxx got a pass from Press and lifted a kick over the outstretched arms of Fay.
"On that first goal, the clearance by the defense was a little short and it was my job to be there for anything that came out," the 24-year-old Press said. "At that point, it's just have fun, shoot and see what happens."
Press had trained in Sweden the past year and called that experience "a blessing in my life."
"I learned so much there, just seeing the different styles of soccer," she said. "All the things I've been able to learn as a person and a player has helped me prepare to play at this level."
Scotland avoided a shutout in the 54th minute. Kim Little drilled a hard shot past U.S. goalie Nicole Barnhart, who replaced Jill Loyden at intermission.
Sydney Leroux closed out the scoring for the United States, sending a loose ball into an uncontested net in the 89th minute in front of a crowd of 18,656.
The Americans stretched their unbeaten streak to 24 games (21-0-3) dating to the 2012 season.
It was only the second game between the United States and Scotland. The American women won 8-2 in the first meeting in 2002, powered by Abby Wambach's first career hat trick and the last three-goal performance by Mia Hamm.
The countries will play again Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn., at the home of the Tennessee Titans.
"This was a great start for us," Wambach said. "It's a new experience with a new coach. We tried new formations with new players and this was a great way to get things going for this year.
"Everyone was out there, having fun and this proved to be a great starting point for us for this year. We've only been together with the new coach for a short time, but we're all working hard, having fun and we're enjoying it. It's a great marriage so far."