USA vs South Africa summary: scores, stats and highlights of Julie Ertz’s farewell match
South Africa unable to keep up with USA
USA finds second gear with South Africa left standing
For the first 30 minutes of this friendly match, the crowd in Cincinnati were perhaps wondering what was taking so long. The USA were ponderous and sloppy, losing passes in midfield and offering unwarranted opportunities to South Africa.
And then, as if a switch was thrown, it all changed.
One moment saw the game swing from a moderately-paced midfield battle to an all-out assault on the South African goal.
In the 32nd minute, Lindsey Horan's corner found Lynn Williams at the back post and her volley was kicked out of the South African goal by Lebohang Ramalepe. As a friendly, there is no VAR technology in use, so Mexican referee Katia Itzel García's decision that the ball had crossed the goal line gave the US a 1-0 lead.
That one moment seemed to shake the South Africans, and while they were still perhaps feeling aggrieved about a goal that they felt was not warranted, the USA struck again. Just two minutes later, a beautiful, inch-perfect pass from Alex Morgan met the sprinting feet of Trinity Rodman who slammed the ball into the back of the net in a goal that left no doubt.
Banyana Banyana was entirely undone at this point. From holding their own against a plodding American opponent, they went to standing in amazement as the USWNT found an ever higher gears. Just five minutes later, Lynn Williams found the back of the net again for the third US goal in less than ten minutes.
While the scoring would stay at that point, the ret of the game was not competitive. South Africa found their footing again and regrouped to an extent, but were always on the defensive.
The lone bright spot for their attack was Thembi Kgatlana. The Racing Louisville striker is insanely quick and seemed to be everywhere at once, often providing the lone attacking threat on what seemed to be a team of defenders.
The true significance of this match will be as the final bow for Julie Ertz, whose professional and international career came to an end after ten years and 123 appearances. As she exited the game in the 34th minute, the crowd gave her a warm ovation.
Both teams will reconvene in Chicago on Sunday for another friendly, which will serve as the curtain call for Megan Rapinoe. South Africa will hope to right some of the mistakes that they made tonight, while the USA will be looking to send Megan off with a flourish.
That is going to be it from us here in Cincinnati. We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did. Join us again on Sunday when we bring you the second friendly from Chicago. Until then, good night and God bless!
That was as close to a walk in the park for the US as could be expected. South Africa were capable in the opening half hour but when the USA reached down for that second gear, the South Africans were simply left standing.
There is the final whistle and the USA has won this friendly match handily.
3 added minutes
There will be three added minutes of play.
Another South African change as midfielder Sonoxolo Cesane comes on for Kholosa Biyana.
A long throw in from Vignola makes it's way to the feet of Lynn Williams who chops one at the South African goal. It bounces over the outstretched hand of the keeper Kaylin Swart and misses just wide of the goal. The US gathers it in and takes another shot at the goal, floating over the crossbar.
Andi Sullivan goes in a bit hard for a challenge on the ball and draws the USA's first yellow of the day.
Double sub RSA
South Africa take advantage of the stoppage to make a double sub of their own. Fikile Magama comes on for Karabo Dhlamini in defense while in attack Thembi Kgatlana will give way for Melinda Kgadiete.
As the USA takes a lazy shot and South African keeper Kaylin Swart kicks the ball out of play, falling to the floor holding her fight hamstring. Trainers rush out and treat her and it looks as if she is cramping up.
Double sub USA
The USA will make another double sub, with Emily Fox and Trinity Rodman coming off and being replaced by Casey Krueger and Alyssa Thompson.
South Africa's possessions are starting to look a little better, with more deliberation in their passes. A long ball to Thembi Kgatlana finds her much as she has been for the second half, alone.
South Africa makes a change here with striker Wendy Shongwe coming on for attacking midfielder Noxolo Cesane.
A free kick for the USA is taken short. They look to be happy to work on their midfield play, angling for possession rather than pushing up the pitch. A long pass misses the mark and it goes behind for a goal kick.
South Africa finally decide to push up onto the US and it pays off for them, as they gain possession and advance. The Americans are able to get back quickly though and snuff it out, although this is a little more positive from Banyana Banyana.
Double sub USA
The USA will bring on striker Ashley Sanchez for midfielder Lindsey Horan as well as swapping out two strikers, Ashley Hatch for Alex Morgan.
South Africa have brought everybody back, just about parking the team bus in front of their goal. They have abandoned all thought of pushing forward at this point, determined not to let the US score any more. The US, in their frustration try a long pass up the right that finds Trinity Rodman offside.
The USA gathers the ball and are pushing forward. South Africa have gathered their composure to some extent but are unable to get bodies forward when they gain possession. The US is in firm control and Alex Morgan decides to take a reckless shot that flies over the goal, not bothering the South African keeper at all.
The USA has been on the attack since the restart and Morgan and Horan team up for a chance that goes begging in front of the South African goal. If could have been 4-0 so easily!
Both teams start the second half with a change. For the USA, Crystal Dunn will give way to Mary Alice Vignola while for South Africa, midfielder Nomvula Kgoale will replace forward Gabriela Salgado.
We get going here in the second half and South Africa needs to have found their form again if they are to keep this within reach.
There is the whistle and the South Africans visibly breathe a sigh of relief. They held their own for 30 minutes but the USA stepped up a gear and Banyana Banyana have had a difficult time keeping up, or even catching their breath for that matter.
We head in for the half USA 3, South Africa 0
3 added minutes
There will be three added minutes and South Africa simply can't wait to get to the locker room and regroup. Kholosa Biyana is shown a yellow for a late challenge.
The USA have now opened the flood gates and the South Africans are beside themselves. There is just no shape to them, and a corner by Sullivan bounces through their defensive lines without being touched by anyone! It finally finds Lynn Willams at the far post and bounces off her stomach into the open goal. 3-0 USA!
South Africa are all over the place and Jermaine Seoposenwe gets shown a yellow card for a sloppy challenge.
After providing the assist for the first goal, Julie Ertz will now leave the field of play to rapturous applause. That is the last of a brilliant career. She will be replaced by Andi Sullivan.
ANOTHER GOAL USA
On the restart, the US immediately charge up the left wing and a beautiful, inch-perfect pass from Alex Morgan finds Trinity Rodman on the dead run. She hammers it into the net for the second US goal in as many minutes! This game is blown wide open!
Now it is the turn of the Banyana Banyana to look sloppy in the midfield, giving away passes, losing possession when put under pressure. The two teams are trading possession in midfield. The USA pushes forward and wins a corner.
Horan takes and finds Lynn Williams at the back post and Lebohang Ramalepe defends it just inside the goal! A goal-line shot but it still counts! 1-0 to the USA!
Another free kick by Lindsey Horan leads Trinity Rodman just a little too much and goes directly at the South African keeper. It is gathered up without incident but that was inches from a perfect set piece by the US.
South Africa looks to be warming into this role as their counter attacks are having an effect, and Thembi Kgatlana takes off up the right wing. Good Lord is she quick!
Her shot at goal is deflected off Naomi Girma for a South African corner. It comes to nothing, but South Africa are on the move.
Lebohang Ramalepe shot
For the second time in just a few minutes, sloppy midfield passing by the US finds South African feet and Lebohang Ramalepe takes a probing potshot at the goal from distance. She is not far off! It is tipped harmlessly over the crossbar by Alyssa Naeher.
The USA stays on the front foot and wins a corner up the other end of the pitch. Horan's delivery finds Ertz yet again and her strongly headed ball is gathered at the feet of keeper Kaylin Swart! That was the closest shot yet for the US. You have to feel that one of these set pieces will find the net sooner or later!
South Africa takes advantage of a sloppy pass by Horan and Linda Motlhalo feeds Thembi Kgatlana, whose shot is just wide of the US goal. A close call for the Americans.
A free kick for the US is put out behind for a corner and Horan comes forward to take it. Her delivery to the near post finds Ertz, who heads it over the bar.
A beautiful long ball finds the feet of Thembi Kgatlana, who runs out of real estate, the ball going out for a goal kick. She had a shot at the US goal for a fraction of a second, but the door slammed shut as quickly as it opened.
South Africa gets the ball and pushes forward into that US defense, which simply swarms the ball and kills the attack dead.
Another probing long ball up the left wing for Morgan leads to a USA corner.
The ball in finds Rodman who pulls it back for Ertz in front of goal and her shot is pushed out at the last second just wide! The USA is hammering on the door and South Africa is throwing everything they can muster back to defend it.
Rodman finds the crack that they have been looking for and takes a run to the South African area, pulling it back for Morgan in front of goal. Well defended by South Africa! That was a great chance early on for the USA and just a half step more and it would have been in the back of an open goal.
The South Africans compose themselves and push forward, but the American defense is not troubled in the least. Play centers around midfield, with the American defenders happy to push the ball around probing for an opening. They are not rushed, nor are they unduly concerned.
The USA immediately puts the South Africans under pressure and win a corner in the opening seconds. Horan takes and it is defended well, coming out off the hand of Jaedyn Shaw for a goal kick.
And we are off!
As the teams gather for the pre-game huddle, Ertz gives an impassioned speech to her young team mates. All are rapt with attention, soaking in the wisdom and experience that is being imparted to them. It is amazing to watch.
Tonight is going to the be final game for one of the greatest defenders not only in US history but in women's soccer worldwide as Julie Ertz calls time on her illustrious career.
Here we go!
We are just moments from kickoff now here in Cincinnati and both teams are ready to get their Olympic campaign started.
21 - Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
18 - Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
1 - Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
11 - Alana Cook (OL Reign)
12 - Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars)
19 - Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns)
23 - Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage)
4 - Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave)
3 - Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
20 - Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars)
14 - Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)
5 - Mary Alice Vignola (Angel City FC)
27 - Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns)
22 - Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
8 - Julie Ertz (Angel City FC)
10 - Lindsey Horan (Lyon Féminin, France)
2 - Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
17 - Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
28 - Mia Fishel (Chelsea, England)
7 - Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
13 - Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave)
16 - Midge Purce (NY/NJ Gotham FC)
15 - Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
25 - Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
26 - Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave)
9 - Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC)
6 - Lynn Williams (NY/NJ Gotham FC)
RSA Banyana Banyana
1 - Kaylin Swart (JVW FC)
16 - Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC)
21 - Kebotseng Moletsane (Royal AM)
2 - Lebohang Ramalepe (Memelodi Sundowns FC)
3 - Bongeka Gamede (UWC)
4 - Faith Owusu (Blackburn Rovers, England)
5 - Fikile Magama (UWC)
7 - Karabo Dhlamini (Memelodi Sundowns FC)
14 - Tiisetso Makhubela (Memelodi Sundowns FC)
15 - Lonathemba Mhlongo (UWC)
10 - Linda Motlhalo (Glasgow City, SCO)
13 - Sonoxolo Cesane (East Tennessee State, USA)
18 - Sibulele Holweni (UWC)
19 - Kholosa Biyana (Memelodi Sundowns FC)
20 - Robyn Moodaly (JVW FC)
22 - Nomvula Kgoale (TS Galaxy)
6 - Noxolo Cesane (UWC)
9 - Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC)
11 - Thembi Kgatlana (Racing Louisville FC)
12 - Jermaine Seoposenwe (C.F. Monterrey, MEX)
17 - Melinda Kgadiete (Memelodi Sundowns FC)
23 - Wendy Shongwe (University of Pretoria)
Julie Ertz will go down as one of the best defenders in the historyof the USWNT but announced her decision to retire from professional soccer following her country’s disappointing exit from the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Tonight and Sunday will be bittersweet for USWNT, as two of their all-time great stars are bidding us adieu. Julie Ertz will appear tonight in what will be the final match of her illustrious career, which will conclude with a total of 123 appearances.
On Sunday, Megan Rapinoe will exit the international stage and could potentially have 204 caps when the dust settles. Rapinoe currently has a remarkable record of 63 international goals, and will be looking to add to that total tonight.
Welcome to the Diario AS USA live commentary of the friendly match between South Africa and the USWNT as the Stars and Stripes and Banyana Banyana each start again after World Cup heartbreak.
Neither team could make it past the Round of 16 in New Zealand, despite the USA coming into the tournament as the heavy favorites to lift the trophy.
These teams will play back-to-back fixtures as they face off tonight in Cincinnati and again on Sunday in Chicago. For both squads, this will be an attempt to start off the campaign for Paris 2024 on the front foot.
South Africa qualified for their first ever World Cup knockout round in New Zealand and will be riding high on their best-ever performance despite their early exit.
The USA will be looking to rebuild with a focus on younger talent as three players will be making their international debut while 11 players are under 25.
Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will helm the USA during these two friendlies as the search continues for Vlatko Andovski's replacement.