Rapinoe leads USWNT to convincing win in World Cup qualifying opener

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The U.S. Women’s National Team made a statement Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe scored twice and assisted on three other goals as the U.S. Women’s National Team routed Mexico in both nations’ World Cup qualifying opener at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The USWNT’s margin of victory was coincidentally the most since a 6-0 win over South Korea at the same stadium nearly one year ago.

Alex Morgan scored a brace and Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath each added goals as well.

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For a team that has been in some transition and flux since the disappointment of the 2016 Summer Olympics, it was the veterans that put their mark on the game early. It took less than three minutes for the U.S. to get on the board, as Lindsey Horan scooped up a loose ball in the box and sliced it back towards the penalty spot, where Rapinoe slotted it home.

Rapinoe, the third-oldest player on the team and a co-captain, was involved in the USWNT’s second goal of the match just seconds into the start of the second half. Rapinoe’s floated cross into the box was headed off the crossbar. In the ensuing scrum, Ertz fired home to make it 2-0. Ten minutes later, Rapinoe’s corner kick was headed home powerfully by Morgan, who’s two goals on the night took her to 92 for her career.

In the 60th minute, the rout was on as the U.S. made it 4-0. Rapinoe’s backward pass freed up Crystal Dunn to race forward down the left side. Heath met Dunn’s cross and sent yet another header into the net.

Rapinoe scored her second of the match in the 70th minute into an open net off a loose ball in the box, and Alex Morgan finished from close range ten minutes later to complete the scoring.

The U.S. returns to action in North Carolina on Sunday evening to face Panama. Should the USWNT win, it would surely qualify the side for the semifinals and the knockout stages. Both finalists and the winner of the third-place match will qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

Future opponents of the USWNT may not want to watch that game. Rapinoe, Morgan, Horan, Heath and Ertz ran the show in midfield and up top, with Sauerbrunn and centerback partner Abby Dahlkemper locking things down defensively. Up and coming star Rose Lavelle started but was replaced by ever-present veteran Carly Lloyd in the 66th minute, and rising star Mal Pugh also came on in the second half. With all the firepower the U.S. has on the bench, the team offensively looks like it is a forced to be reckoned with in World Cup qualifying and beyond.