USA beat Vietnam 3-0 in the opening game of the Women’s World Cup
Sophia Smith scored twice in the first half for the United States and the two-time holders started the Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 win over tournament newcomers Vietnam on Saturday.
Lindsey Horan added a goal for the favored Americans, who have won four World Cups in total and are struggling for an unprecedented hat-trick in this year’s tournament.
Vietnam drew comparisons to Thailand, the team that defeated the Americans 3-0 in the opening game of the 2019 World Cup. But Vietnam were surprisingly resilient, keeping the game closer than expected and goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh stopping Alex Morgan’s first-half penalty attempt.
Morgan was slammed with her hand on the calf after trying to deflect her missed penalty but she quickly recovered. It was only her second missed penalty for the USA.
Smith, one of 14 Americans attending a World Cup for the first time, showed with her two first-half goals why she was named both the US Soccer Player of the Year and National Women’s Soccer League MVP last year.
Smith scored a pass from captain Lindsey Horan in the 14th minute. Smith and Horan celebrated with a choreographed handshake after the goal. She scored again in added time in the first half and made it 2-0 before the break. The USA were initially ruled offside before a video review confirmed the goal.
The US team was full of young talent including Smith and Trinity Rodman after settling for a disappointing bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Among the veterans, 38-year-old Megan Rapinoe earned her 200th cap against Vietnam.
Rapinoe, who scored in the World Cup final in France and was named player of the tournament, did not start. She announced before the team’s departure to New Zealand that this would be her last World Cup and she would retire from her professional team at the end of the season.
Rapinoe and midfielder Rose Lavelle, both of whom were injured in the run-up to the tournament, both came on as substitutes in the 63rd minute. Rapinoe wore bright blue hair.
The youngest player on the team, 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, also came on as a second-half substitute.
Horan fired into the wide open goal after a pass from Smith, who was tackled by the keeper and deftly sent the ball back to her. Horan, who was recently engaged, kissed her ring in celebration.
There was early drama when Rodman, the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman and one of the young rookies on the team, appeared injured after falling badly on her back when tackled by defender Tran Thi Thu. Rapinoe warmed up on the sidelines and a stretcher was brought onto the court, but Rodman got up and returned to the game moments later.
Saturday’s game was the first meeting between the United States and Vietnam. The Vietnamese lost two games in the run-up to the tournament and lost 9-0 to Spain in a closed-door pre-season game in Auckland last Friday.
Also in Group E are the Netherlands and Portugal, who meet in Dunedin on Sunday. Portugal is also at a World Cup for the first time.
The group plays all of their matches in New Zealand, where the tournament is co-hosted with Australia. The United States will play the Netherlands in the 2019 final in Wellington on Thursday.
Should the USA lead the group, the team will travel to Sydney for the round of 16.
Back in the United States, a sign reading “Go Team USA!” was installed on the North Lawn of the White House. We all have your back.”