The U.S. Women’s National Team couldn’t have picked a better way to open their World Cup account, smashing Thailand on its way to a 13-0 victory.
While it might seem like there’s not a ton to take away from a game that got out of hand early, here’s three important facets we learned from Tuesday’s blowout win.
Underrate the USWNT at your own peril
Unlike in previous World Cups, the USWNT was literally one of the last two teams to take the field for the first time in the tournament. All that pent-up energy and time waiting and watching the other teams play could have led to this result, in which the U.S. was in all-out attack mode from the opening whistle.
Remember when France’s 4-0 win over South Korea was the bar for a comprehensive victory? Now, the USWNT has blown that out of the water. Yes, South Korea is at a higher level than Thailand, but the result is the same. The U.S. could have easily just completed 200-consecutive passes and waited for the clock to run out, but by building up their goal differential – the first tiebreaker in the group stage, the USWNT ensured it has an advantage in that department moving forward.
This USWNT squad, despite the up-and-down form heading into the World Cup, is clearly one not to be underrated, lest you want to end up on the end of a smashing.
Anyone can score
Again, a disclaimer – yes, it was just Thailand. However, the way the USWNT played, it showed that there’s goals in almost everyone on the field. Seven different players scored, including two off the bench, and of course, star striker Alex Morgan now has five goals to her name this World Cup. If Sweden was hoping for a USWNT that’s not confident in front of goal, all they have to do is watch the highlights from this one to see that they’ll be able to pass, dribble and shoot its way through anyone.
But again, it’s not just that Morgan scored five goals. All three starting central midfielders scored – Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, and Rose Lavelle (both braces). Mal Pugh, who started against Sweden in the infamous defeat on penalty kicks as an 18-year-old at the 2016 Olympics, is now coming off the bench as a 21-year-old when for any other nation, she’d be the top target forward up top.
And who can forget Carli Lloyd. Maybe one of Jill Ellis’ biggest celebrations of the evening came when Lloyd scored her delightful outside-of-the-boot goal, giving the 36-year-old yet another World Cup goal for her stat book. The goal likely calms down some issues in the locker room between Lloyd and the starters, but also proves to Ellis that if she needs a goal in a pinch, Lloyd’s the first player she should look to.
Ertz is the backup centerback
It’s a small point, but with Becky Sauerbrunn out with a minor injury, instead of turning to someone on the bench, Ellis went with Ertz, who formerly partnered with Sauerbrunn in the last two major tournaments as a centerback, even though she’s now the team’s rock as a holding midfielder.
With Ertz as the backup centerback – most of the rest of the other defensive options, other than the other starting centerback Abby Dahlkemper, are outside backs – the USWNT keeps the ability to take more midfielders on the team, and it has a centerback in-waiting that has a great passing ability and the calm and poise on the ball to start up attacks. That can be both from the edge of the USWNT’s own box to the midway line, or farther.
Obviously, centerback depth, if you’re only going to carry three, and no clear backup for the No. 6, can be dangerous if injuries or suspensions are more serious. But ultimately, the way the USWNT are playing right now, they may not need a real No. 6 except against Sweden and possibly in the second round and later of the knockout stage.