SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tom Sermanni could have been forgiven for any pangs of nostalgia when facing his old team. His new players, however, had no similar emotional attachment.
Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd scored in the first half, and the U.S. women’s national team overpowered Australia 4-0, giving Sermanni a victory in his first match against his former side.
“The reality is as a coach, you have to be detached once the game starts,” Sermanni said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game. I’m pleased to have come out of it unscathed. Otherwise I might have been a pariah in Australia and the U.S.”
Holiday and Lloyd scored on powerful volleys, and Abby Wambach extended her international record with her 162nd goal, connecting with delicate flick off the outside of her right foot that trickled into the corner. Christen Press scored in stoppage time.
The win extended the Americans’ unbeaten streak to 36 games and pushed Sermanni’s record with the U.S. to 11-0-2 in his first year. Sermanni coached Australia for eight years, leading the Matildas to two World Cup appearances and an Asian Cup title before taking over the U.S. job in late 2012.
The 2012 Olympic champion, the U.S. is unbeaten on home soil since 2004, a streak of 74 games.
Australia coach Hersterine de Reus, preparing the Matildas for next year’s Asian Cup, was frustrated with defensive lapses.
“Giving up four goals is a bit too much for me,” de Reus said. “We were a capable of creating dangerous opportunities ... but we struggled a lot on defense and couldn’t get control of the game.”
The U.S. started Wambach, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux together for the first time but dropped Leroux to midfield. The Americans pressed from the outset and scored in the sixth minute when Holiday got her 20th career goal.
Becky Sauerbrunn lofted a high free kick into the penalty area that Australia failed to clear. The ball bounced to Holiday, who slammed a volley that took a slight deflection off a defender and zipped past goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
The U.S. struck again in the 14th when Lloyd pounced on a ball that bounced her way across the top of the penalty area. With no one challenging her, Lloyd hit a powerful shot with her left foot that again left Williams with no chance. It was Lloyd’s 45th career goal.
Australia had several good chances in the first half as the U.S. back line struggled with the speed of Matildas forward Lisa De Vanna.
De Vanna had three shots denied by goalkeeper Hope Solo, the best coming three minutes in when DeVanna burst past Crystal Dunn. Solo made a diving one-handed save to punch the ball away.
While the Americans forced most of the play in the Australian half, the U.S. back line of Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg looked fragile defending Australia’s counters in the first 45 minutes.
Sermanni said he expected De Vanna to challenge his defense.
“We were a bit rusty at times and allowed Australia to get behind us, and Hope really came up big. Australian teams are notoriously difficult to play,” Sermanni said. “We left ourselves very open in the first half, and were kind of our own worst enemy.... You never quite harness De Vanna. She always bring something.”
Solo shrugged off the early defensive lapses by her back line.
“I’m excited about this defense. They have all the potential. They have the speed, will get in for tackles. This is a defense can get us back to where we have the best defense in the world,” Solo said.
Sermanni stuck with his starters to open the second half and the U.S. continued to press the pace of play. Wambach, the reigning FIFA player of the year, found the net in the 56th minute.
Wambach chased a long ball from Lloyd and just managed to flick it under the diving Williams, who turned to watch as the ball rolled just inside a post.
The game was the first of three in 10 days for the U.S. The Americans play New Zealand in San Francisco on Oct. 27 and again in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 30.