For years, the U.S Women’s national team has performed at the highest level. Collecting three humble world cup trophies and four gold medals in the Olympic tournaments, the U.S has had nothing but winning wired into their DNA. But as each trophy and medal is added to their collection, so is the quality of play amongst their opponents. Heading into France, Not only does the U.S have to worry about the giants of France, Germany, England and long time rival Japan. They now also have to worry about the rising stars of Australia, Netherlands and Canada as they look to grace the pedestal. Though the U.S is ranked as the top team in the world, this will be the hardest World cup the U.S women have had to face as they start their world cup journey facing Thailand.
Starting line up:
Alex Morgan (13), Megan Rapinoe (15), Tobin Heath (17), Sam Mewis (3), Lyndsey Horan (9), Rose Lavelle (16), Crystal Dunn (19), Abby Dahlkemper (7), Julie Ertz (8), Kelley O’Hara (5) and Alyssa Naeher (1).
Right off the bat the U.S team didn’t hesitate. With shot after shot being sent down Thailand’s throat, the U.S takes the lead in the 11th minute from a goal by Alex Morgan as she received a pinpoint cross from right back Kelley O’Hara, heading it into the bottom left corner. Continuing their non stop pressure, the U.S didn’t stop there as Rose Lavelle went on to score the next games goal in the 19th minute from outside the box, highlighting questionable goalkeeping from Thailand’s keeper. Maintaining high tempo and relentless energy, Thailand found it hard to possess the ball. They were eventually able to sneak off a shot only to be easily caught by Alyssa Naeher. The third goal of the game started from a free kick taken by right wing Tobin Heath in the 31st minute as the ball was driven low into the path of Lindsey Horan who nailed the ball into the top right corner. With a series of close calls and questionable decisions made by the referee, the first half could have easily ended 4-0 if it weren’t for an offsides call in the 5th minute.
The next forty five minutes would go on to prove the U.S’s dominance over Thailand as they score ten goals. The first four goals in the second half would come in a time span of just six minutes and seven seconds as Mewis kicks off her World Cup debut with a goal in the 49th minute deflected by the Thailand defender. Shortly after Morgan scored a brace as Tobin Heath crosses the ball towards Horan who flicks the ball over to Morgan. Within the next minute the U.S grabs another goal. This run of play coming from Crystal Dunn who laid the ball off at the top of the box for Lavelle whose shot was deflected into the path of Mewis leading to her second goal of the night. In Similar fashion, their 55th minute goal came from left outside back playing the ball into Mewis, who returns the favor to Lavelle by playing it across to her as she nestles the ball into the bottom left corner. This concludes Lavelle and Heath’s match as Veterans Carli Lloyd and Christen Press come on to replace them.
In the 68th minute the U.S makes another adjustment as Julie Ertz comes off and the youngster Mallory Pugh comes on. Ten minutes later Alex Morgan scores her hat trick as she nails the ball from the top of the box off a pass from Press. In the 78th minute Carli Lloyd wins the ball on their defensive half and relieves pressure by passing the ball up to Press. Taking the ball up the middle of the field, Press finds Pugh out on the right. Curling the ball behind the backline Pugh finds Megan Rapinoe who places the ball in the back of the net making it Rapinoe’s fourth ever world cup goal. In the 80th minute Morgan grabs her fourth of five on the night. In the 84th minute, Press wins a 50/50 in the air and heads the ball down to Morgan who plays the ball through to Pugh. Beating the goalkeeper off the dribble Pugh passes the ball into the net. At the 86th minute Rapinoe finds Morgan who pops the ball up past her defender. Turning on her defender she volleys the ball into the top left corner bringing her goals for the night to a close. After receiving three minutes of stoppage time Carli Lloyd finds the net in the 91st minute as she places the ball in the net with the outside of her foot. Lloyd’s goal brings the U.S’s total of goals to thirteen as they start the tournament off undefeated.
Though Thailand didn’t prove to be that much of a challenge, the U.S looked unstoppable. Scoring goal after goal and keeping up their relentless tempo, the U.S poses an even bigger threat than before as look to face Chile in their next group stage match.