What a difference gender makes. Had the U.S. Men’s National Team opened the World Cup with a 3-1 victory, fans would be celebrating the performance. However, there should not be any celebrating with the U.S. Women’s opening game victory over Australia because if anything, it showed if they are to win this year’s Women’s World Cup, they will have to improve by leaps and bounds.
Had it not been for a fortunate ricochet goal in the early minutes of the first half by Megan Rapinoe and some outstanding goal keeping by Hope Solo, the Americans could have easily been down three goals at half time. Instead, they managed to make it to the half tied at one apiece.
For much of the game’s first 35 minutes, Australia dominated possession and showed how vulnerable the U.S. is when it plays a fast team. The back line of the United States was repeatedly beaten and seemed out of sync, while the mid-field and front line was unable to control possession. Not until the final ten minutes of the first half did the Americans begin to show their technical dominance and begin controlling possession.
Our women were not helped having to play without their best player, Alex Morgan, who did not come onto the pitch until after the U.S. scored their final score.
Besides being a terrific scorer and possessing superior speed, Morgan is an outstanding creator who draws defenders to her and places the ball into open space for her teammates, creating easy scoring opportunities.
How well her knee holds up over the next month remains to be seen. Even Abby Wambach failed to make a difference, twice failing to score on headers that four years ago would have found the back of the net.
During the second half, our women kept control of the ball and used their passing skills to score twice more. When Morgan’s replacement in the starting lineup, Sydney Leroux drew two defenders to her on the left side of the goal box, she placed a perfect touch to a trailing Christen Press who found the back of the net and put the U.S. ahead for good in the 61st minute.
Rapinoe would tally another goal in the 78st minute ensuring the American squad a much needed win and placing them alone at the top of their group with three points.
Still, there is much work to be done if winning our first World Cup since 1999 is going to happen. The back line has to tighten up or it will get eaten alive by Sweden on Friday or other contenders like Germany, Japan, and Brazil.
And despite scoring twice in the opener, Rapinoe would be wise to trust her team mates by passing more and dribbling less. Wambach has to finish better on set pieces and while Leroux played a very good game, a healthy Alex Morgan is going to create more scoring opportunities over the course of the tournament.
Still, a win is a win and even if the U.S. draws with Sweden and Nigeria over the next two games or picks up a win against just one of these two teams, they will make it into the knockout round of the tournament.
But if first impressions are anything, this squad has a ways to go to be worthy of winning the Women’s World Cup.