The USWNT escaped a tough test yesterday beating Australia 3-1 to begin their World Cup. The score line looks dominant but the game, for long stretches, was very much in doubt. The Yanks were an absolute mess in the first half. We had trouble holding a shape and possession, and if not for transcendent play from Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, we’d be at amber alert.
Solo is simply the best in the biz. World-class goalies are expected to make tough saves, Solo saves games. Too often in the first half, the Matildas pushed the attack and flustered our backline. The D, seemingly the most settled part of the US lineup, was pulled every which way and often caught ball watching. Australia’s Kerr and De Vanna often had room to shoot, and at one point Australia had a 6-1 shot advantage.
But luckily, and against the run of play, there was a moment of brilliance. During a brief respite from Australia’s siege, centerback Julie Johnstone boots it from way back and the ball ricochets to the feet of Megan Rapinoe. Megan. Rapinoe. After twisting and spinning and oozing skill, Pinoe decided to take a low percentage shot, which somehow deflects off a Matilda and beats the keeper. It was a wonder, random, super, awesome goal. When she took it, I gave her a 0.00001% chance of finding the back of the net. But she did. As Sigi always says, goals change games.
Even when Australia continued to attack and finally got their goal, the game was all even 1-1. If not for Rapinoe and Solo, it could’ve easily been 2 or even 3-nil. How would a 1 or even 2-goal deficit had shaken us at halftime? Very few teams have as much pressure on them this World Cup than the Stars and Stripes.
Luckily we don’t have to play the “what if” game, and in the second half the US asserted themselves and played like champions. The ball movement on the Press goal was something to see: Solo to Pinoe to Leroux to Press. Poetry. Then Pinoe again went all Superman, taking the ball 30 yards upfield on her foot before deftly ducking aside her defender and earning her brace. The bets teamwork may have been late in the game when Australia seemed gas. We just humiliated them with our possession and ball movement, and they practically gave up the chase.
All in all, Alexi Lalas got it right. The USWNT got a great result from a mediocre performance. We lead the Group of Death.