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TOKYO — The United States women’s national team delivered a performance a little more befitting of, well, the United State women’s soccer team here Saturday night, defeating an outclassed New Zealand squad 6-1.
This was the kind of onslaught the Americans wanted considering it came three days after they were uncharacteristically blown out 3-0 by Sweden in their Olympic opener.
The victory almost assures the U.S. will move onto the quarterfinals, which begin next week.
In what is just a 12-team field, it’s possible to advance to the knockout stage with as little as one point. The Americans now have three going into their group play finale against a very good Australia side on Tuesday.
Rose Lavelle got the scoring going in the ninth minute. Lindsay Horan followed in the 45th minute on a header off a brilliant pass by Julie Ertz. There was a New Zealand own goal in the 63rd before the U.S. gave one back in the 72nd. Christen Press added a goal the 80th minute for the US and Alex Morgan delivered another in the 87th, before another New Zealand own goal in stoppage time.
The USWNT looked slow, disorganized and even old on Wednesday when Sweden dominated them and ended their 44-game unbeaten streak.
New Zealand, however, isn’t the same class of opponent — ranked No. 22 in the world while the Swedes are No. 5. The U.S. is ranked No. 1 and remain the favorite to win gold at -110 with BetMGM.
The U.S. controlled almost the entire first half and would have overworked the scoreboard if not for having four goals called back due to offsides (at least three were clear violations).
In the end it hardly mattered, The relentless pressure sapped New Zealand of all energy. The floodgates opened in the second half, and the USWNT set Olympic records for goals in a game, margin of victory and most goals in a half.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski shook up his lineup, starting Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe for Press on the front line. Ertz started at center midfield and Sam Mewis went to the bench.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Tierna Davidson and 27-year-old Emily Sonnett started on the backline in place of Kelly O’Hara, 33, and Becky Sauerbrunn, 36, in a clear effort to give the U.S. a much-needed burst of youth.
Press, Mewis and Morgan all made appearances in the second half. Perhaps most importantly for the USWNT, there was more energy, more pride and more execution throughout.
The question will be if it holds up against the better teams in this tournament. The U.S. is trying to become the first team to follow a World Cup victory (2019) with Olympic gold. To do that, they’ll have to beat teams a lot better than New Zealand.
That’ll start Tuesday against Australia. If nothing else, this was a step in that direction.
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