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
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).