Veterans Give USWNT Opening Match Victory
Much of the Olympic spotlight has been placed on the infusion of youth on the United States Women’s National Team roster, but to start the tournament, the veterans led the way for the defending World Cup champions.
Hope Solo notched her 102nd clean sheet in international competition, and a pair of mainstays in Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan provided the scoring in the USWNT’s 2-0 win over New Zealand Wednesday evening.
“I think it was a great starting game for our team and the young players as well,” Hope said.
Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil saw a dominant effort from the American women, who outshot the Kiwis 12-4 to earn their 13th shutout of the season and improve to 15-0-1 in 2016.
Hope was called into action for just one save as the U.S. dominated possession to earn three points in Group G play.
“I was just impressed with our ball movement,” Hope told NBC Sports Network. “Of course we had to play defense, but we had to play less defense because we had such great ball movement and possession of the ball.”
The Americans maintained possession early and often. Nine minutes in, veteran Tobin Heath lofted a pass for Lloyd to loop a header into the left side of the net.
Lloyd, who suffered a knee injury in April, seems to be in full form for the Olympic stage. The USWNT captain has thrived on the Olympic stage in the past—in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Lloyd posted two tallies in the final match against Japan to help the Americans capture their third straight gold.
The second half started even quicker than the first when Morgan doubled the American lead to 2-0 in the 46th minute. More great movement, by virtue of multiple touches, created a golden chance for Morgan and after the ball found her foot, the forward needed just a few steps before squeaking her team-leading 12th goal of the year inside the near post, beyond the outstretched arms of New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler.
With a comfortable lead, substitutions were made, allowing head coach Jill Ellis to keep her front line fresh: Crystal Dunn subbed in for Mallory Pugh in the 51st minute, Lindsey Horan entered for Morgan Brian in the 64th minute and Christen Press relieved for Alex Morgan in the 81st minute. The U.S. held on tight to possession and the lead from there, through each substitution, with nary a scare as Hope locked down yet another shutout for the American side.
Hope and the USWNT return to Minerao Stadium to face France on Saturday, Aug. 6 at 4 p.m. ET.
France, ranked third in the world, topped Colombia, 4-0, on Wednesday in the Olympics opener for both teams. Colombia’s Carolina Arias scored an own goal to put France on the board in the second minute. France’s Eugenie Le Sommer scored in the 14th minute, Camille Abily found the back of the net in the 42nd and Amel Majri concluded the scoring in the 82nd.
France and the U.S. are currently tied atop Group G with three points apiece—and Saturday afternoon’s match could very well decide the group’s top seed. The USWNT wraps up Group G play versus Colombia on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m. ET.
Both matches can be viewed on NBCSN and NBC Universo, as well as streamed live on NBCOlympics.com.