Football: Depleted Football Ferns dispatched by world champions USA in Wellington series opener

United States have given Kiwi football fans a sneak preview of their World Cup pedigree, dismissing a depleted Football Ferns side 4-0 in front of a record crowd at Wellington.

Scheduled outside an international window and missing stars from both teams, the two-game series serves as a chance for both sides to promote the upcoming women's tournament in July and for the Americans to scout out facilities for their title defence.

Even without some of their biggest names, the visitors proved too strong for their plucky opponents, who somehow reached halftime at level pegging, but could not turn back the tide for the full duration.

US superstar Alex Morgan poses for fans at Wellington
US superstar Alex Morgan poses for fans at Wellington. Photo credit: Photosport

USA created chance after chance over the opening 45 minutes, finding the back of the net once and hitting the post on another occasion, all to no avail.

Right wing Margaret Purce created all kinds of problems for the NZ defenders and went close to opening the scoring in the 28th minute, when she unleashed a booming leftfoot shot from outside the penalty area that beat NZ keeper Erin Nayler, but rattled the left upright and bounced clear.

With halftime looming, left wing Mallory Swanson curled a free-kick towards goal, where it seemed to take a slight deflection from Lindsey Horan into the net, but Horan was ruled offside.

As both teams made a raft of changes after the break, the Americans finally broke down the Ferns last line, with Swanson heading home a cross from substitute Trinity Rodman - daughter of NBA basketball legend Dennis Rodman.

Rose Lavelle's clever backheel pass into the area provided the opening for superstar Alex Morgan to score her 120th international goal, while Swanson had a second, when she ran onto a long ball and beat Nayler for an open shot.

Rodman laid on another pinpoint cross for substitute Lyn Williams to header past Nayler for the fourth and final goal.

USA managed 15 shots, including seven on target, with Nayler producing some fine saves in the opening half. By contrast, New Zealand managed just two shots and one on target.

The closest a Kiwi came to scoring was in the 73rd minute, when defender Ashleigh Ward tried to cover a dangerous ball into the penalty area, but miscued her clearing header directly at Nayler, who made a reflex save off her apologetic teammate. 

The NZ women had conceded 11 goals in their last two meetings with the Americans, so statistically, this result represented an improvement, while Grace Neville and Grace Wisnewski made international debuts, the latter as Football Fern No.200.

Grace Wisnewski makes her Football Ferns debut against USA
Grace Wisnewski makes her Football Ferns debut against USA. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's always a challenge, but this team is ready for any challenge, especially this year, going into our World Cup," Ferns captain Ali Riley told Newshub. "I'm so proud of how we fought - at the end, we still had that fight left.

"It was a performance we can learn from, but also be proud of."

The 12,508 attendance was record home crowd for the national women's team, who have another chance to improve that mark - and their performance - against USA at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday.

USA 4 (Swanson 2, Morgan & Williams) New Zealand 0