Despite a shaky start to the first half, the US Women’s National Team now sits at the top of Group D with a 3-1 win over Australia in Winnipeg, with a brace from Megan Rapinoe and another from Christen Press (her first World Cup cap and first WC goal). Though, notably, none from captain Abby Wambach despite several good chances…
After the first set of Group D matches in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USWNT comes out on top of the group with three points after fellow Group D opponents Nigeria and Sweden drew 3-3 hours earlier in Winnipeg. The American Outlaws and other US fans were loud and proud throughout the match, effectively giving the USWNT a home team advantage despite playing over the northern border.
In the early part of the first half, the US was very much on the back foot. Australia started the game out very dominant and aggressive, seen in the 4th minute in a brilliant volley by Emily Van Egmond which required a great save by Hope Solo (and the crossbar) to keep the game scoreless. Megan Rapinoe’s brilliant movement outside the box, and a favorable deflection off an Australian defender, opened the scoring in the 12th minute. The Aussies immediately and rather relentlessly pushed back against the US, nearly scoring in the minute afterwards thanks to a US defensive lapse. Australia would equalize in the 27th minute via a Lisa De Vanna goal, assisted by Michelle Heyman, in which De Vanna was given too much space and easily slotted the ball past Solo. Australia could have easily had several more goals in the first half if not for the skillful goalkeeping we’ve come to expect from Hope Solo.
While the US finished the first half level, it was not their best performance. The US in the first half seemed to be a one-trick pony: long balls intended for Wambach and Leroux. Nearly every free kick opportunity (or even whenever Solo gathered the ball) it always resulted in a long ball forward up the field. Despite this tactic, Abby Wambach managed only two chances in the first half, including a point-blank header off a free kick which went off target.
Wambach announced that she would be sitting out the entirety of the 2015 NWSL season to focus on the World Cup. This will improve her fitness and will take away the prospect of injury, but the match commentators pointed out that she looked a little rusty. And I have to agree, the chances that she had in the first half were goals she would have put away if she was at peak form. I do have a lot of confidence in her though, and I am sure she’ll find her form as this tournament progresses, and maybe even win the trophy that has eluded her all these years.
The second half saw an improved US team pull the game away. Christen Press netted what would be the game-winner in the 61st minute off of a lovely cross by Sydney Leroux. Rapinoe would add her second in 79th minute, and Alex Morgan was brought on immediately after despite some injury worries. The only two bookings of the match occurred in the second half with Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe receiving yellow cards (the latter of which was a definite mistake by the referee). With yellow cards carrying over between matches and two yellows equaling a one-game suspension, it would definitely sting to have someone as vital as Rapinoe to be suspended for card which was a result of a shoddy call.
While Rapinoe was my MVP for this game, Leroux is a close runner-up, as her energy and vision was integral to the USWNT’s victory. Fair play too to the USA’s Aussie (…Aussie, Aussie—Oi, Oi, Oi) opponents, because their first half aggressiveness definitely gave the USA a scare or two.
The USA plays Pia Sundhage’s Sweden on Friday, June 12, which will present another significant challenge for the Americans to overcome.