US women open victory tour, Ellis farewell, beat Ireland 3-0

PASADENA: Departing head coach Jill Ellis and the US women’s national team opened their post-World Cup domestic Victory Tour with a 3-0 victory over Ireland on Saturday night.

Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd scored first-half goals on a celebratory evening at the Rose Bowl to kick off a five-city tour bringing the champions to their eager stateside fans. They’ll also stop in Philadelphia, St Paul and Charlotte before finishing in Chicago on October 3 to conclude Ellis’ 5 1/2 years in charge.

Ellis announced her decision Tuesday to walk away as the first two-time women’s World Cup champion coach, and this win improved her record to 103-7-18 in the US′ top job since 2014. The Americans’ new boss will have a compressed time frame to prepare the team for the Tokyo Olympic tournament, which will be in the semifinals at this time next year.

“I just felt the timing was right,” Ellis said Friday. “The timing is right for whoever the new coach is. The timing was right for me on a personal level with my family.”

But nearly four weeks after their World Cup-clinching victory over the Netherlands, the Americans showed off the ample two-way talent with which their new coach can work.

With an enthusiastic crowd of 37,040 cheering their every move, they had little trouble with Ireland, FIFA’s 33rd-ranked side.

Late in the scoreless second half, that crowd started a loud chant of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” Players on the women’s team sued the US Soccer Federation in March, alleging gender discrimination in areas including financial compensation.

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan missed the game while healing from minor injuries, and Mallory Pugh was scratched during warmups with a minor muscle issue. Rapinoe, the Golden Ball winner in France, and Morgan got wild cheers whenever they were shown on the scoreboard sitting on the US bench.

The crowd half-filled the vast stadium despite stiff ticket prices, the Rose Bowl’s usual onerous parking fees and relatively short notice for the game. The fans included Kobe Bryant and Alessandro Del Piero, the retired Juventus star who lives in Los Angeles and owns a Hollywood restaurant.

A pregame ceremony included the unveiling of banners depicting four huge cloth stars symbolizing the Americans’ record four World Cup wins.

US Soccer picked an appropriate venue for the start of this tour: The Rose Bowl is the site of the team’s landmark 1999 World Cup triumph, and a statue of Brandi Chastain celebrating her championship-winning penalty sits in a park near the venerable arena’s front entrance.

Heath, a last-minute addition to the starting lineup, opened the scoring with a header in the 16th minute.

Horan added a tap-in goal and Lloyd connected on another header shortly before halftime.

The Irish dropped to 0-13-0 against the US, but the experience could help their play in UEFA Women’s Euros qualification, which begins against Montenegro next month.