Alex Morgan (right) celebrates her goal with Megan Rapinoe, who tallied later in the match. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Give the U.S. attack some high marks for filling the net and coming from behind against a tough Australian women’s national team.
But on the other hand, you can hand the Americans’ defense some poor grades after another questionable performance.
Yes, the U.S. recorded a 5-3 comeback win over the Aussies at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Thursday night, but its defense — backline and team — has to be a major concern to head coach Jill Ellis slightly more than two months before the start of the Women’s World Cup.
The defense, or lack thereof, could catch up to the defending world champions come June.
Despite grabbing one-goal lead, the U.S. could not hold it and almost suffered the consequences.
The match continued an alarming trend as the hosts have conceded at least two goals in each of their last three games and in four of its last six, not a cozy or warm thought for any coach.
Mallory Pugh came off the bench to score twice in the second half for the U.S.
The game started out on a high note for the Americans, who struck in the 14th minute behind Alex Morgan’s 100th international goal. Morgan put on display of her talent as she took the ball away from an Australian player and motored in on the left side before depositing the ball past the goalkeeper.
Morgan became the seventh player in U.S. women’s history to tally 100 international goals.
The Matildas, however, were not about to roll over. With forward Sam Kerr making life difficult for the U.S. backline, Australia finally found the range in the 29th minute as Lisa DeVanna scored her fourth goal against the host side off a counterattack, firing a shot from the left side to the upper right corner past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Only two minutes into the second half, Australia took at Caitlin Foord fired a 15-yard shot from the left side of the area into the lower right corner for her 16th international score.
The U.S. managed to equalize in the 53rd minute as Tobin Heath headed home a right-wing cross into the far side of the net for a 2-2 tie. Heath, who has scored in three consecutive matches, has found the net in seven of her last 10 appearances.
Megan Rapinoe powered the Americans back into the lead on the hour as she picked up a loose ball, moved across from left to right just to find some room before driving a shot from atop the penalty arc for a 3-2 lead.
A minute after replacing Rapinoe, Pugh did not waste any time, recording her 14th international goal on her first touch of the match. Morgan back-heeled a pass to the onrushing Mallory, who drilled a shot from the right edge of the six-yard box for a 4-2 advantage in the 67th minute.
The hosts needed that goal because Kerr finally found the range in the 89th minute, heading home a right-wing cross from 12 yards to cut the margin to 4-3 with her 31st international score and first against the Americans.
Five minutes into second-half stoppage time, Naeher started the final goal-scoring sequence booting a long ball from the penalty area. Helped by the Rocky Mountain altitude, Pugh ran onto the ball and scored from the right side to close out the scoring.
Long Island natives Crystal Dunn (played the full 90 at left back) and Allie Long (second-half substitute who performed at midfield and on defense later on) performed in the match.
The U.S. will host Belgium in Los Angeles Sunday.