Fresh off of last year’s embarrassment of the U.S. Men’s team stumbling in their qualifier, the U.S. Women’s team took no chances whatsoever in dominating their group to move one step closer to defending their World Cup title. Wins over Mexico (6-0), Panama (5-0) and Trinidad & Tobago (7-0) secured the top seed in Group A and advancement to the knockout stage, which begins on Sunday.
As easily as those scores might indicate, the American women, currently ranked number one in the world and reigning World Cup Champions, navigated calmly and dominantly, controlling possession from whistle to whistle in all three matches.
In the opener against Mexico, Megan Rapinoe wasted no time whatsoever, striking in only the third minute to open the scoring. The rest of the first half was a cruise, as the U.S. dominated possession, but didn’t strike again. After halftime, Julie Ertz restarted the American scoring barrage in earnest, and the floodgates opened. Alex Morgan added two more goals in the 57 th and 80 th minutes, Rapinoe struck again, and Tobin Heath netted one as well. So comfortable was the American offensive that Mexico was only able to manage possession for around 35% of the match, and the American defense stifled almost every run, limiting Mexico to only three shots all game, only one of which was on target.
In game two, against Panama, American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher again had an easy night and a clean sheet, seeing only three shots from the Panamanian squad. The US dominated the time of possession again, and striking four times before the half, before playing keep away at the end of the match. A hat trick from Carli Lloyd led the way (23’, 29’, 48’), with Christen Press finding the net in the 32nd minute and Samantha Mewis opening the scoring only six minutes into the match.
With advancement to the knockout stage secured, the USWNT could have experimented with younger players, or taken the third game lightly, but they did no such thing against a badly overmatched Trinidad & Tobago squad, who could only manage a few minutes of possession and not a single shot or corner kick. Rose Lavelle (41’, 43’) and Alex Morgan (9’, 50’) each scored twice, and goals were added by Crystal Dunn (45’), Lindsey Horan (49’) and Tobin Heath (58’). As dominant as the performance was, it could have been a wider margin, as Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Saundra Baron was under siege all night long, making a whopping twenty-one saves on targeted strikes from the Americans.
Next up for the USWNT will be a semifinal match against the Jamaican squad that finished second in Group B. A win will guarantee that all-important World Cup berth, but you can bet that Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and crew will be looking to finish this tournament out as dominantly as they started it. Also joining the American women from Group A in the semifinal round are the Panamanians, who will take on Group B champions, Canada on Sunday.