It could have been five goals. or six. Or seven.
That’s how strong the USA Women’s National Team’s attack was – a team of Valkyries in the build-up that scared Vietnam into laying deep early on.
But when faced with the finishing task, more often than not their shots missed their target in a 3-0 win that will likely raise more questions than answers for manager Vlatko Andonovski.
That was evident in the full-time stats, which showed the U.S. had 28 shots — but seven on target.
Chief among those warriors was Sophia Smith – who scored two goals on her World Cup debut to surpass Vietnam keeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh, the Golden Star Women’s Warriors’ top scorer so far.
Lindsay Horan struggled to finish at times, but got the third goal in a 3-0 USWNT win.
The star of the show for the USWNT was 22-year-old Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith.
Smith scored twice in the second half and assisted on the third to give the USA the win
Thane was able to save an early penalty from Alex Morgan – whose poorly taken effort could have given the US the momentum to really put the game away early.
But it came at a time when the US was already 1-0 up thanks to Smith. Morgan had a major role in that first goal, with a fancy backheel into the path of the 22-year-old forward that finished cleanly.
Debutant Smith put another one deep into long stoppage time which was initially ruled offside but overturned by VAR. He hit the ball which went through the keeper’s legs and doubled the American advantage.
In doing so, she became the youngest USWNT player to score multiple goals in her World Cup debut.
Smith would later assist Horan’s goal on 77 minutes in a build-up that had to be seen to be seen.
A wonderfully hit long pass by Julie Ertz required Smith to make an extra effort to get the ball. Not only did Smith get it in time, he beat his defender and delivered a spectacular pass to Horan – who took his time and slotted it into the back of the net.
But the experimental starting XI that Andonovski has produced will take the US back to the training drawing board.
The manager opted to start midfielder Julie Ertz in defense and gave Savannah DeMello, Trinity Rodman, Andy Sullivan, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma and Smith their World Cup debuts in the starting XI. Later, Alyssa Thompson and Sofia Huerta made their first appearances at the top tournament of the women’s game.
Smith’s brace won her man of the match as she became the first US women’s national team player to score twice in her World Cup debut.
Manager Vlatko Andonovski made six World Cup debuts – replacing two others
Goalkeeper Thi Kim Thanh Tran (14) was Vietnam’s top player with five saves on the night.
Inconsistent attack – combined with poor finishes from Alex Morgan (L) and Horan (R) could leave the Americans looking for answers up front in training
Thanh, Vietnam’s goalkeeper, walked away with five saves on the night in a superb effort against FIFA’s top-ranked women’s team.
He was aided by a defense that sat back five to form a wall in front of a more prominent American attack.
As a result, several shots were blocked as the USA often rushed to try and score.
This was especially true in the second half – as Morgan, Horan and super sub Megan Rapinoe’s efforts went wide of the target. The buildup to the second half also often looked disjointed.
Rapinoe and fellow superstar Rose Lovell came off the bench as they each recover from injuries.
The end result may have left both team and supporters disappointed – as many believed a replay of the 13-0 win over Thailand from the 2019 World Cup group opener was on the cards.
Megan Rapinoe came on as a substitute as she recovers from injury
While much needs to be done, the USA will have a rest period before the rematch with Holland
But again, Andonovski’s experimentation has left a midfield disconnect that will likely need to be repaired ahead of the rematch with Holland.
It could be a revenge game for the Dutch, who were defeated by the United States in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final where the USWNT won its second straight title and fourth overall.
A win against Holland would likely be a strong catalyst for future matches if the USA does as expected and reaches the knockout stage.
As for Vietnam, they will take on Portugal in a bid to earn their country’s first points at the World Cup.
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