If the goal so beautifully conceived by four attackers from the United States women’s national team and so wonderfully struck by Rose Lavelle didn’t convince everyone, the USWNT was channeling the lingering chagrin of its inaugural Olympic fiasco into a furious display of effort, surely Lavelle. sold them. in the next minute.
The goal came in the ninth minute of the second game in the Olympic Group G game, presenting the United States with their first lead of the tournament. It began with a forward header from veteran forward Carli Lloyd that paid the price of a blow to the head, followed by a vital control touch from midfielder Lindsey Horan that allowed winger Tobin Heath to control the ball and play it through a slot for Lavelle just inside the right side of the box. Lavelle controlled it, saw a space between the goalkeeper and the right post and cut it with a precise strike of his right foot.
There was the allotted time to celebrate, but there was no time to rest.
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Because shortly after play restarted from the center circle, New Zealand hit the ball deep on the left side with the opportunity to make something interesting happen. Believe it or not, because Lavelle shot out of her attacking position, maybe 65 yards, maybe more, and slid to tackle the ball away from New Zealander Olivia Chance. That alone would have been an amazing effort. But Lavelle got to his feet as the ball rolled towards the goal line, he rushed and controlled it before he could kick for a Kiwi corner.
This was the most important aspect of the USWNT’s performance in a 6-1 win that took them to second place in the group: hunger.
“I think we had more energy from the beginning,” midfielder Julie Ertz told reporters. “We came out wanting to score goals and make a statement. Obviously we were not satisfied with the last game and we had to start over. And we were able to do that. “
The USWNT actually put the ball into the back of the net 10 times, but erased four goals for offside. It was a bit puzzling at the time, because everyone came in with the score still 1-0 from Lavelle’s early attack, but in the end it could be seen as further proof that the players were driven, in this case a bit too desperate, to erase. all the memories they could of the devastating 3-0 loss to Sweden in the opener, their first loss in 45 matches.
Winger Megan Rapinoe ran as hard and as long as in any game in memory, including when she received the Ballon d’Or and Golden Boot at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“I think we got into the second game knowing that we didn’t go from being a great team two days ago to not being a great team,” left-back Crystal Dunn told reporters. “I think we came in a little more relaxed, trusting each other and knowing that we are here and that we can get the job done.
“We went off a 44-game unbeaten streak, and we lost the first match of the Olympics the way we did. Obviously that was not surprising, but we are well equipped to deal with adversity. “
These were the other major developments in America’s victory:
The return of Julie Ertz. After choosing to play her alone in the second half against Sweden in her first action since a knee injury in May, coach Vlatko Andonovski started Ertz (above) in the defensive midfield role she has made her own for the past five years. . Ertz was not asked to disband an overwhelming number of New Zealand attacks, but he handled the few he saw with aggression and precision.
However, he was a vital part of the offense, including his header on a corner kick play from beyond the second post to the center of the goal, where Horan headed for the team’s second vital goal, just before halftime. , and a cross from the right side to Christen Press in the 80th minute that Press settled sweetly and then struck into the right corner for a 4-1 lead.
Most importantly, Ertz spent the full 90 minutes.
“We’ve learned before, the Olympics are tough – you play matches, deliver fast, anything can happen in any tournament,” Ertz said. “It was definitely an opportunity to learn. And luckily we were able to learn from that early in the tournament. “
Goal spread. Ertz said Andonovski told the players, “Go out there and be ruthless,” and that was essential to the performance. A 2-0 win would have been a good comeback, but the truth is that the USWNT had to sweep this game to undo the damage of Sweden’s defeat.
The first and second-place teams from each group qualify for the quarterfinals, along with the two highest-ranked third-place teams. Thus, the US gains two benefits from changing its goal differential from minus 3 to plus 2 in a single night.
The first is that they will clinch second place by tying Australia in the final group game on Tuesday. The Australians went from a 2-1 win over New Zealand to a 4-2 loss to Sweden on Saturday, putting them at minus-1 in goal differential.
The USWNT’s position at plus-2 is a significant advantage over all current teams in third place. It would take a staggering combination of events on the third day of group play to prevent the Americans from advancing.
Group G standings
|4. New Zealand||0||2||0||2||0||2||Eighth||-6|
“We wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to play urgently, ”Andonovski told reporters. “We wanted to be intense and when the atmosphere is a bit buoyant by the staff and the players themselves, the players are a bit impatient, which showed early in the game. I’m glad they were able to adapt and hit the timing for all of their careers after that. “
Rotation of players. Andonovski was able to rest veteran defender and team captain Becky Sauerbrunn throughout the game, deploying the talented 22-year-old Tierna Davidson in her place. Right-back Kelley O’Hara also got a full night off.
Lloyd started over Alex Morgan, who came in late and scored the team’s fifth goal on a Press cross pass. Midfielder Sam Mewis rested and Horan moved forward to play in a more natural attacking spot; she was among the most dangerous players on the team.
“We’ll probably do it in the next game as well,” Andonovski said of player rotation. “Every game ahead of us is the most important, and we are going to try to have the best team that we feel will help us win the game.”
The recovery of the target spread will allow some flexibility in this area.
There were little concerns in this game. With three goals that surpassed her in the first match, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was very cautious about leaving her net unprotected to collect balls rolling harmlessly into the area. He let the defenders take care of that, and that could be a problem against an opponent with the type of player, say, the brilliant Sam Kerr of Australia, who can pounce on such a ball and turn it into an opportunity.
Most concerning is that central defender Abby Dahlkemper (above) had her second tough game in a row. It wasn’t sharp for much of the night, including the 43rd-minute misjudgment of a ball sent into the box, which New Zealand forward Hannah Wilkerson was able to field and nearly score a goal. But then, in the 72nd minute, a big mistake occurred. Dahlkemper, who was in position to hit the ball over the right sideline for a simple NZ serve, hit the ball forward, and Paige Satchell was able to run down, get closer, and then hand it to her teammate Betsy Hassett to scoring a goal. cut the US lead to 3-1.
It was a disappointing moment on an otherwise positive night in which the United States regained some of the arrogance of a defending World Cup champion.
“Very happy with the result. A very different result than the last game,” Andonovski said. “We came here in this game with the right mindset and focus. We came with the mindset to win this game, we took the first step and we moved on. “.