Though nearly two years since it last played China, the U.S. women's soccer team showed Saturday it hadn't lost its dominance of its Asian counterpart.
With a goal by Megan Rapinoe and a goal and an assist by Heather O'Reilly, the Americans beat China 2-1 before 4,759 at KSU Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw.
Now unbeaten in their past 47 matches stateside, the victory kept the U.S. women undefeated in 32 matches against teams from Asia, a streak that includes 26 wins and six ties.
A victory in a second game against China on Wednesday in Chester, Pa., would complete the Americans' unbeaten season entering World Cup qualifying in Mexico late this month and the World Cup in June. The United States began this season 7-0 with five shutouts, before tying and beating Sweden 1-1 and 3-0, then topping China on Saturday.
America's third-year coach Pia Sundhage liked her players' performance in its first match since July 17, though many players only recently joined the team following professional seasons. It was a good opportunity to consider which 20 players Sundhage will choose for World Cup qualifying from the 30 she brought to Kennesaw.
"We created a lot of chances on our corner [kicks], and a lot of chances overall," Sundhage said. "Overall, I think we did OK. It's not enough to create [chances]; we have to put away the chances as well."
Winners of the World Cup in 1999, the Americans hadn't played China in 22 months, since beating them four times by shutout in 2008. Saturday's 43rd meeting between the countries was a highly awaited matchup between FIFA's No. 1-ranked U.S. team and No. 14 China.
The Americans led 1-0 on Rapinoe's goal in the 21st minute of the first 45-minute half, then got the game winner by O'Reilly in the 36th. Rapinoe cashed in a shot from about 18 yards directly on, after China keeper Huang Luna punched out O'Reilly's cross from the right side. O'Reilly stuffed in her own carom just inside the right post, negating Qu Shanshan's goal from about 18 yards that tied the score 1-1 three minutes earlier.
Rapinoe, whose two goals have come in consecutive matches, liked the U.S. team's focus. That was key, considering the disjointed season and easily overlooked China, ranked its lowest since FIFA began ranking women's national teams.
"We're almost re-energized in way," the midfielder said of players' reuniting following their professional seasons. "Were so excited to be back together."
O'Reilly, a midfielder whose other goal this season came in a 4-0 victory over Germany, added, "We have some more work to do. Now it's just refining our pieces."
U.S. keeper Jill Loyden allowed a goal, but had two saves in her first U.S. national game.