The U.S. women’s national team got a potentially historic 2023 off to a winning start Tuesday in New Zealand.
After a scoreless first half against the 2023 World Cup co-hosts in Wellington, the U.S. got a pair of goals from Mallory Swanson (née Pugh) in the second half plus strikes from Alex Morgan and Lynn Williams in a 4-0 win for the defending world champions. champions
The Americans will try to become the first team, men’s or women’s, to win three consecutive world titles when this year’s event begins in Australia and New Zealand in July.
Here are three thoughts on Tuesday’s win.
Swanson is making a name for himself…
Playing in her first game since marrying Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson last month, Swanson did her best to solidify her spot on the field this summer with fellow outfielders Megan Rapinoe and outfielder USWNT 2022 Sophia Smith missing this month due to minor injuries. The second-youngest member of the trophy-winning squad in 2019, Swanson has been in career form over the past 12 months. That brilliant play continued in this year’s opener.
There was little apparent rust on the wing compared to most of his teammates — January games aren’t usually pretty after the NWSL’s long offseason. Swanson looked very dangerous throughout the match and took her pair of goals mercilessly. The first came with a header, the second after a run behind the Kiwis’ backline:
If Swanson starts Down Under this summer, it will likely be alongside Smith and Alex Morgan, if healthy. That would leave Midge Purce (who started Tuesday and looked good enough in 45 minutes of action) and Williams (who earned his due after an injury-ravaged 2022) primed for off-the-bench roles in side of the subject of the next section, which helped his cause. considerably on Tuesday.
[Swanson and Smith: ‘Bonafide stars and the future of USWNT]
… how does it Trinity Rodman
With two assists from the bench, Rodman, 20, produced his best performance for his county in his 10th international appearance. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Rodman is a special talent; it’s not his skill, but the absurd depth of the USWNT that has kept Rodman from taking on a bigger role thus far.
But World Cups also have a habit of turning out young stars, and Rodman seems to have a knack for taking advantage of his opportunities, like his assistant on the Williams header that completed the rout:
While the deadlock at the top now makes a starring role at Australia/New Zealand 2023 seem unlikely, a lot can change in six months’ time. Morgan will be 34 when the World Cup begins. Rapinoe will be 38 years old. Injuries happen, even to youngsters like 22-year-old Smith. Just one or two could open the door for Rodman, who feels destined to make her mark on the biggest stage one way or another this year.
Other tracks of the World Cup line-up
An hour before the friendly, which along with Friday’s replay was staged as a vital part of the World Cup build-up for the headliners, US coach Vlatko Andonovski gave an insight into the pecking order ahead of the competition between the staff of the national team.
There’s plenty of time for Andonovski’s views to change over the next six months, of course; this is one of the highlights of this camp, in addition to next month’s three SheBelieves Cup contests against Brazil, Canada and Japan. But the coach’s first lineup of 2023 made a few things clearer.
It looks like veteran goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s job to lose in net. Crystal Dunn, who returned from maternity leave last October, is likely the first choice at left back, with Emily Fox on the left to battle Emily Sonnett (and perhaps still Kelley O’Hara) on the right.
It was telling that in his first start for the United States, defensive midfielder Taylor Kornieck got the nod in the role that Julie Ertz, still out after giving birth to her first child last August, has filled for most of of Andonovski’s mandate. The manager kept Lindsey Horan in a more attacking role alongside Rose Lavelle, with Sullivan replacing Kornieck at half-time.
There are certainly some rotations planned for Friday, and this game will certainly tell us more about where the USA stands. How much? While the U.S. may have avoided the kind of opening World Cup defeat they suffered against France in both 2015 and ’19, Tuesday’s encounter suggested they still have a lot of work to do. The Football Ferns, ranked 24th in FIFA, are no Les Bleus, and the Americans’ performance was unconvincing despite the lopsided final score. They will look to rectify that when these teams meet again in three days.
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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