Football News

US Women’s Team Kicks Off World Cup With Victory, But Must Sharpen Play to Triumph Again

The U.S. women’s national soccer team opened their World Cup quest on Saturday with a decisive 3-0 victory against Vietnam. A sense of competitive tension filled Eden Park as a crowd of 41,107 witnessed the showdown. However, the usually smooth, slick style associated with the U.S. women’s team seemed to lack the shine and sparkle we’ve come to expect from them.

22-year-old prodigy, Sophia Smith, led the team’s offense, scoring two goals before halftime and assisting in the second half. Meanwhile, veteran player Megan Rapinoe achieved an international milestone by making her 200th international appearance, and Alyssa Thompson, less than half Rapinoe’s age, made her World Cup debut.

U.S. team captain Lindsey Horan also found the net, sealing the win. Yet, the team’s performance left some spectators unimpressed. Despite their ranking as the world’s top team, the U.S. failed to dominate Vietnam, a team ranked 32 and making their World Cup debut. This exposed the team’s potential vulnerabilities moving forward in the competition.

Missed opportunities were prevalent, as striker Alex Morgan botched a penalty kick in the first half. Additionally, the team’s attacking rhythm fluctuated, revealing a lack of coordination that was out of character for the squad. These slips may prove fatal down the line, as goal-difference could become a crucial tiebreaker for first place in Group E.

The American team will face a significantly sterner test in Wellington against the Netherlands on Thursday. This Dutch team will be keen to avenge their defeat to the United States in the 2019 World Cup final. The last group game will see the U.S. team clash with Portugal on Aug. 1 in Auckland. The top two teams will move onto the round of 16.

The U.S. victory over Vietnam fell short of their blistering 13-0 triumph against Thailand in the 2019 opener. This result can be seen as evidence of the rapid growth and competitiveness in women’s soccer.

Notably, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski sprang two surprises in the starting line-up. Midfielder Savannah DeMelo, buoyed by an excellent season with the NWSL’s Racing Louisville, got the nod ahead of Ashley Sanchez, with Julie Ertz returning to the starting lineup in the backline in place of presumed starter Alana Cook.

Trinity Rodman, the 21-year-old winger, had an impressive outing, despite being fouled 20 seconds into the game. After two minutes of treatment, she returned to the pitch, demonstrating the team’s resilience and determination.

The U.S. breakthrough arrived in the 14th minute. Horan, from deep midfield, slotted a through ball to the top of the box. Morgan used an adroit flick to set up Sophia Smith, who slotted in a low finish to claim the first goal. Despite the U.S. team’s control of the game, a combination of missed opportunities and Vietnamese resilience kept the scoreline relatively modest.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) played a significant role in the game. In the 40th minute, it led to the awarding of a penalty kick, which Morgan failed to convert. In stoppage time, VAR was used again, this time overturning an offside flag that initially ruled out Smith’s second goal.

Despite these missteps, the U.S. team remains confident and hungry for a third consecutive World Cup title. As the journey continues, lessons will be learned, strategies refined, and perhaps, opportunities will be seized with greater precision. The ultimate test will be whether this seasoned team can reclaim their rhythm, and in doing so, create history.