The U.S. women's soccer team cruised past South Korea on Thursday night, 3-1, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Julie Ertz opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a diving header off a Megan Rapinoe corner kick:
Alex Morgan doubled the Americans' lead in the 39th with a terrific trap, turn and finish off a setup pass from Kelley O'Hara:
South Korea got its goal just before halftime. Han Chaerin hit a sensational curling shot from just over 20 yards that U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher had no chance to save:
It was Chaerin's first international goal, and it came in her first ever appearance for her national team.
Megan Rapinoe capped off the scoring in the 49th minute with a penalty kick that she drew and finished:
Delran native Carli Lloyd played the final 13 minutes of the game as a substitute. It was her first game action since suffering an ankle injury in mid-August.
"I was not sure where I was going to be at in terms of recovery time," she told reporters after the game. "It's really good to get back out there. I feel refreshed and energized, and mentally and physically back to myself."
The biggest news of the night came just before halftime, when winger Mallory Pugh went down with what looked like a bad hamstring injury.
Pugh, one of the Americans' top young attacking prospects, was seen on TV on the bench telling teammates that she heard the trademark "pop" that usually signifies a big problem. U.S. coach Jill Ellis told reporters after the game that Pugh will have a MRI exam Friday to get a full diagnosis.
The injury could have happened in any circumstance, but it might not have helped that the game was played on artificial turf.
Fox Sports 1 reporter Jenny Taft said Ellis told her in an off-camera interview at halftime that the Superdome's surface was "sticky" and players were getting "caught underneath it."
A few weeks ago, the U.S. women's players union publicly complained about having to once again play on turf in a New York Times report.
Former national team player Aly Wagner took the U.S. Soccer Federation to task on the subject while calling the game.
"There is no reason for them to be playing on turf," Wagner said. "You have all these stadiums in the country — why would you put your team in this situation that could potentially cause injuries? … It's just not the surface these players deserve to be playing on. It's simple."
The Superdome had new turf installed this past August, so it wasn't a matter of it being worn down. But it was still artificial. And it looked quite unsightly, as the gridiron lines for Saints games weren't fully cleaned off.
The stands looked rather unsightly too, Just 9,371 fans were in attendance.
When the U.S. played on turf in September in Cincinnati — the home town of rising star playmaker Rose Lavelle — they drew 30,596 at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium.
There will be one more game on turf this year, against Canada at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 9. The selection of that venue was beyond the Americans' control. But it will likely bring back good memories of the U.S. team's last game there: the 2015 World Cup final, in which Lloyd scored a hat trick as part of a 5-2 rout of Japan.
Before then, Americans will play South Korea again this coming Sunday at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (2 p.m., ESPN). That venue has grass, not turf. And while it only seats around 10,000 fans, it is expected to be sold out. The crowd for that game could be bigger than Thursday's.
The year's final game — a rematch with Canada at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif., on Nov. 12 — will also be played on grass.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.