Christened by Queens: Press stars as USWNT opens Q2 Stadium with win over Nigeria
Q2 Stadium was “Christened by Queens” as the tifo, a visual display, unveiled by U.S. women's national team supporters group American Outlaws read on Wednesday night. A first-half goal by Christen Press, the first ever tallin Q2 Stadium, started the scoring in a 2-0 win for the Americans over Nigeria in the final match of a three-game summer series that included wins over Jamaica and Portugal.
Press moved into ninth place all-time in goals scored for the USWNT with 61. She was the best player on the field for the team during the summer series.
"It's an honor because there have been so many good players on this team over the years," Press said after the match. "It's hard to believe I'm here. It is an honor to play for the national team and I will always be trying to score goals."
The Wednesday match was the first ever at Q2 Stadium, and the first time a U.S. national side has played in Austin. Austin FC, the permanent residents at Q2, hold its home opener against the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night to cap off a historic week of soccer.
The capacity crowd of 20,500 was forced to wait until stoppage time of the first half to celebrate the stadium’s first goal. Despite more than 69% of possession over the first 45 minutes, the Americans struggled to turn that dominance into clear-cut chances at goal. A strong defensive effort by Carli Lloyd, who was honored before the match for surpassing 300 appearances for the national team, turned into instant offense when her pass met Press’s left foot and ended up past the Nigeria goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi.
“In terms of atmosphere and crowd, it was brilliant,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the match. “It was nice to have after 15 months (without capacity crowds). It was a good reminder of how much the fans love soccer and how much they love the U.S. women’s national team.”
The USWNT finished the first half with six shots, including three on goal. Nigeria registered five shots, but only one on goal, through the first half. The 2-0 victory moved the United States’ record against Nigeria to 6-0 all-time. The USWNT is 9-0-1 in 2021.
The American dominance continued in the second half with the USWNT reaching 70% possession by the end of the match. And for the second time in the match, a goal in stoppage time erased the offensive frustrations from the rest of the half. Substitute forward Lynn Williams found herself open after a pass from Press, and slotted it into an open net after rounding Oluehi.
"It was electric. So amazing," USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn said about the atmosphere after the match. "To not be able to hear the person next to you on the field was a nice change. Austin definitely delivered and I can't wait to come back."
The USWNT finished the match with 72% of possession. The defending world champions registered 15 shots, including six on goal. Nigeria finished with one on-target shot out of seven attempts.
Andonovski must now trim his roster from 23 to 18 players for the start of the Tokyo Olympics. The squad plays Mexico on July 1 and July 5 in friendlies serving as final preparations for the tournament.
“My confidence level is higher than it was before,” Andonovski said. “As for our final decisions, we feel like we have plenty of information and I believe we’ll make the right decisions for the team.”
The Olympics begin for the team on July 21 with a match against Sweden. The group matches continue July 24 against New Zealand and conclude July 27 against Australia. The top two teams from the group advance to the knockout stage.