Three takeaways from USA-Australia

The Americans launched their quest to win the Women’s World Cup for the first time in 16 years by beating a stubborn Australia team, 3-1, with a pair of goals by veteran Megan Rapinoe and a winner from WWC debutant Christen Press. Lisa de Vanna’s equalizer in the 27th minute unsettled the USA, which needed a strong start after halftime to wrest the match away from Australia.

By winning their opener in Winnipeg the U.S. women climbed atop Group D with three points. A 3-3 tie in the other group game left Sweden and Nigeria tied for second with one point. Australia is last.

Here are three takeways from the USA’s Women’s World Cup opener:

1. Solo shrugs off legal issues.

An ESPN “Outside the Lines” report that aired two days before the USA-Australia game re-opened the legal problems encountered last June by keeper Hope Solo during a domestic involvement dispute involving her half-sister, yet Solo shown no signs of distraction on Monday.

She was razor-sharp, and had to be, as the Matildas split open the U.S. several times to put shots on frame early in the match. Emily Van Egmond and Samantha Kerr punctuated their impressive first-half displays by testing Solo, and she needed a couple of timely interventions from Becky Sauerbrunn to keep Australia at bay with the score, 1-1.

Sauerbrunn and Solo played key roles in mentoring centerback partner Julie Johnston through her first World Cup. Solo, as usual, commanded the penalty area on the ground and in the air and showed no signs of wavering focus.

Solo had no chance to stop the equalizer from Lisa de Vanna, who slipped through the middle into space vacated by U.S. left back Meghan Klingenberg  to first-time a pass from Michelle Heyman with a low shot just inside the post. Australia used its pace and intelligent movement to unlock the U.S. back line often enough to supply Nigeria and Sweden plenty of material to use in their preparation.

2. Rapinoe rises to the occasion.

After recording her 100th U.S. cap earlier in 2015, attacker Megan Rapinoe joined a select group of U.S. women who have scored 30 goals and posted 30 assists in their careers by scoring the first and third goals. She is the 13th American women to reach both of those milestones. Though she didn’t earn an assist on Press’s goal, Rapinoe’s collection and accurate pass sent Sydney Leroux in the clear to cross the ball for Press to finish.

On all three goals, Rapinoe's touch and sense of time and space victimized Australia. She scored the first goal by spinning away from a challenge to hit a right-footed shot that deflected into the net, and on the final goal she skated up the left flank to meet defender Laura Alleway one-v-one. She feinted inside on her right foot and then fired the insurance goal past Australia keeper Melissa Barbieri inside the far post.

Though the U.S. attack lacked cohesion in the first half, the skill and audacity of Rapinoe and Press kept the Australians off balance.

3. What to make of Wambach?

She’s one of the best headers in the world, but several times Abby Wambach couldn’t connect solidly on excellent crosses hit into her comfort zone.

Rapinoe and Klingenberg supplied two of the serves during a tough day in the air for Wambach, who took time off from club ball prior to the World Cup and suffered a broken nose May 10 in a friendly against Ireland. She worked hard as a target forward, creating space and angles for Le Roux, Rapinoe and Press to exploit and a bit surprisingly went the full 90 minutes. Even at less than full sharpness, Wambach is far too dangerous and powerful if opponents slack off.

Coach Jill Ellis brought on Alex Morgan in the 79th minute to replace Leroux. She missed the last three friendlies because of bone bruise in her knee and with all the games in Canada being played on turf, Ellis will be especially careful with those players carrying injuries into the tournament.

Leroux’s solid showing suggests she will keep her place in the starting lineup for the second group game against Sweden on Friday. Might Ellis opt to start Morgan and bring Wambach off the bench, or is Leroux the one who will be designated as a sub?

June 8 in Winnipeg
USA 3 Australia 1. 
Goals: Rapinoe 12, 78, Press 61; De Vanna 27.
USA -- Solo; Johnston, Klingenberg, Krieger, Sauerbrunn; Lloyd, Rapinoe (Brian 86); Holiday, Leroux (Morgan 79), Press (Heath 68), Wambach.
Australia -- Barbieri, Alleway (Sykes 83), Gorry (Kennedy 81), Uzunlar, Catley; Kellond-Knight, Foord; De Vanna, Kerr, Heyman (Simon 69).
Yellow Cards: USA -- Holiday 56, Rapinoe 64.
Referee: Claudia Umpierrez (Uruguay).
Att.: 31,148.

7 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-Australia".
  1. William Thomas, June 9, 2015 at 9:12 a.m.

    This is going to be a tough WC for the all the top teams. The teams are playing faster and better at each WC making it very enjoyable for spectators.

  2. Carl Hudson, June 9, 2015 at 11:40 a.m.

    Leroux "solid showing"? She stunk up the place, along with the K-girls.

  3. beautiful game, June 9, 2015 at 11:43 a.m.

    This is for you Mr. Thomas and the enjoyment u get from the WWC....I have two takeaways from the US v Australia game and the general TV presentation at all soccer venues. Watching over 40% of the game at ground level, tight videos of individual players, etc, this bubblehead TV presentation is a mockery to the sport. The worst ever televised sport of meaningless close ups and Ping-Pong shots from corner kicker to keeper, to scrums in the box, to referee to coach, to crowd, etc. Soccer requires a widescreen dimension to capture team team and multiple player movements...and it's being denigrated at every opportunity.

  4. Kent James, June 9, 2015 at 1:12 p.m.

    Klingenberg did seem to vacate her left back spot on the Australian goal, but it did seem planned (rather than a lack of attentiveness on her part). She shifted to the right flank (it looked like to cover an overlapping run off the set piece). I'm guessing they'd scouted Australia and this was one of their dangerous plays (they tried it later in the game) so Klingenberg's speed (and lack of height to defend against balls launched into the box) meant she was deployed out of position on the set play. The problem was that nobody covered the spot she left. I was kind of surprised that none of the TV commentators mentioned this (and certainly, how wide open the goalscorer was should have caused them to notice Klingenberg's absence). So good pick-up Ridge, but someone should ask Ellis if that was a planned redeployment.

  5. Ric Fonseca, June 9, 2015 at 3:08 p.m.

    I w, were...oops ARE you more concerned with the tv coverage, as you so aptly describe, or the ACTUAL flow of play? On Fox's pre, half-time, and post game commentators, Lalas seems somewhat subdued with the other ladies there, and he literally dwells on the negative, as he admitted being the "devil's advocate." Oh, well, let's just enjoy the games, so to I w, I say PLAY ON!!!

  6. Tim Brown, June 9, 2015 at 3:36 p.m.

    USA win 3 to 1. Usa looked and were vulnerable at times and Solo played great. She literally saved the game. But complaining about TV angles I W is pointless. What else do you have to complain about.Go USA !

  7. Mark Torguson, June 10, 2015 at 12:30 a.m.

    Has the USA changed their colors? I don't remember black and yellow being part of our countries color scheme

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