US Women’s National Team opens World Cup with humiliation of Thailand

Five minutes. That’s how long it took for the United States Women’s National Team to find the back of the net in their World Cup opener against Thailand. But as Alex Morgan turned around to celebrate her goal alongside her teammates, they heard the dreaded offside whistle from the line referee negating the goal.

Morgan threw her head back in disbelief but let out a smile, almost as if she knew what was going to come.

Not only would the United States score again, they would score 13 more times, including five from Morgan. 

Morgan would get her redemption in the 12th minute. After Kelley O’Hara sent in a beautiful cross to the back post to find Morgan unguarded, Morgan headed it in for the United States’ first goal of the 2019 World Cup. 

“Every time we score a goal in the World Cup, you’ve dreamt of it,” Morgan told reporters during the postgame press conference. “I’ve dreamt of it since I was a little girl.”

Eight minutes later, Rose Lavelle, making her World Cup debut, launched a screamer into the right side of the goal. Lindsey Horan would follow suit off of a free kick. Heading into halftime, the U.S. led by three goals with the outcome already decided. Thailand had just one shot attempt while the U.S. had 15. But the defending World Cup champions were just getting started. 

The final 45 minutes would prove to be disastrous for Thailand, and at times unwatchable. The U.S. scored four goals in a matter of six minutes, pushing the lead to seven and making the over/under of 5.5 look like a mistake.

The goal-scoring barrage would cool down for a few minutes, but as the match drew closer to the final whistle, it was evident Thailand wanted to get off the pitch.

In the final 16 minutes of the match, the U.S. would score six more goals, reaching the eventual total of 13 and setting the World Cup record for largest winning scoreline.

It wouldn’t be the only record the U.S. would break, as seven different players would find the back of the net, shattering the record for most different scorers in a Women’s World Cup match. Morgan’s five goals tied Michelle Akers for most goals in one game while Carli Lloyd’s goal in extra time made her the oldest American woman to score a goal in the World Cup at 36 years and 330 days. 

Lavelle and Samantha Mewis each would finish with a brace, and captain Megan Rapinoe would also get in on the action with a goal in the 79th minute. Mallory Pugh, who subbed on in the 69th minute, was also a part of the goal bombardment.

Amid the beatdown, U.S. coach Jill Ellis took some heat for letting her players continue to extend the lead instead of taking their foot off the gas pedal. Ellis said it was respectful “to play hard against opponents.”

“Games are games, and you gotta go out and play and you gotta compete,” Ellis said. “And a lot of this is about building momentum, and so as a coach I don’t find it my job to harness my players and rein them in because this what they’ve dreamt about. This is it for them. It’s a world championship.”

When asked a similar question, Morgan said in the group stage every goal matters because of the goal differential in a tiebreaker. Through one game, Sweden’s goal differential is at two following their victory over Chile. 

Regardless of whether the shellacking of Thailand was disrespectful or not, the reigning champs’ quest to defend their title could not have gotten off to a better start.

“It’s how you want to start a tournament,” Ellis said. “Having players feeling good about their game. It’s about building momentum, getting that first game under your belt.”

If you thought the U.S. would start off slow still celebrating their 2015 World Cup championship, think again. 

“They’re on a mission,” Ellis said. “This is one step in that.”
 

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