US women’s soccer and Colombia settle for 0-0 draw in cold Utah matchup

U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn (4) defends against Colombia forward Elexa Bahr during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

For the U.S. women’s national soccer team getting together after a disappointing World Cup, there’s still so much more work to do.

That was on display on a cold Thursday night in Sandy in front of a solid crowd of enthusiastic fans, as the American favorites and Colombian underdogs scuffled to a scoreless 0-0 draw.

The United States did start their best lineup against upstarts Colombia, which FIFA ranks as the 22nd-best women’s team in the world. All 11 starters on Thursday night were part of former head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s World Cup roster. The lineup featured American mainstays like Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Alyssa Naeher, Naomi Girma, Trinity Rodman, and more.

But despite having the stronger team on paper, the women really struggled in the 32-degree weather. Instead, it was Colombia that had the bulk of the possession in the first half; both sides only managed a couple of chances. The standout moment of the first half came when a series of three U.S. corners led to a questionable penalty decision from Honduran head referee Melissa Borjas — Alex Morgan hit the resulting spot-kick off the upright in perhaps the fairest outcome of the incident.

In the second half, former BYU Cougar star Ashley Hatch entered for Morgan in the 67th minute and immediately accelerated affairs, putting the Colombian back line under pressure. And it almost paid off: perhaps the U.S.’ best chance to score came in the 74th minute, when Hatch muscled her way to a ball in the box, then forced an excellent save out of keeper Natalia Giraldo.

“It felt great,” Hatch said. “It was super fun to be back in Utah.”

Another former Utahn making an appearance in the second segment: 38-year-old defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who captained the first edition of the Utah Royals. She’s also been the U.S.-team’s long-time captain, but missed out on this year’s World Cup due to a foot injury. Despite the next iteration of the cup being four years away, Sauerbrunn says that she wants to be with the U.S. team for as long as they’ll have her.

“I didn’t really know if I was ever gonna see minutes with this team again,” Sauerbrunn said. “And so to be able to go out there and to play 45 minutes made me really happy.”

While Hatch and Sauerbrunn played well, it ultimately wasn’t enough. Just as they did in July and August, the U.S. Women really didn’t put their stamp on the game in the way that we’re used to. The Americans only put two shots on target during the full match, a pair matched by Colombia.

“We’re not satisfied with the 0-0 draw,” USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore said. “We want to create more chances to score, we want to finish those chances to score — but I think there were also some good takeaways (from the match).”

For 18-year-old Olivia Moultrie, it wasn’t the dream hometown US debut she hoped for. The Salt Lake City-born, California-bred Moultrie was the NWSL’s youngest-ever player — she started training professionally at age 13 before being signed to a professional deal at age 15 with the Portland Thorns. But Moultrie was left out of Kilgore’s roster for the game, and will have to hope to make her USWNT debut in San Diego on Oct. 29, also against Colombia.

In the weeks after that match, the U.S. Soccer Federation hopes to name a permanent head coach, putting the preparations for next summer’s Olympic tournament in full swing.