Women's World Cup: USA survive a scare and defeat Australia in Group D opener at Winnipeg Stadium
Special to MLSSoccer.com
U.S. women's national team fans can breathe easy.
It wasn't their best game, but the US women still came away 3-1 winners on Monday against a dangerous Australia side thanks to two goals from Megan Rapinoe, one from Christen Press and some great goalkeeping from Hope Solo.
The game's first came from Rapinoe after just 12 minutes. The US midfielder confidently cranked a shot from outside the box, which deflected off a defender and into the goal.
Wide open in front of net, Australian forward Lisa De Vanna retaliated with a left-footed first-time redirect in the 27th minute after some nifty build-up.
The score held at 1-1 until Press tallied the game-winner for her first-ever Women's World Cup goal and her 21st tally in 46 matches. It was also the USA's 100th all-time World Cup goal.
STANDINGS: See how Group D looks after the first group matches
Rapinoe sealed the deal in the 78th minute, but this time no deflection was necessary. It was a strike that clinched the win for the team and Player of the Match honors for her.
But it wasn't just about the goals scored for the USA. It's about the goals they denied. Goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was in the eye of a media maelstrom in recent days, played a major role in the victory. If it were not for Solo, the United States might have been down by two in the first half.
WATCH: Hope Solo's jaw-dropping first-half save
With superior passing and an ability to create chances, the Matildas started the match hungry, but ultimately couldn't keep it up as fitness proved the difference maker. As the game progressed, Australia tired and lost momentum. But, the Americans, ever-known for their tremendous fitness and superior athleticism, finished strong. That doesn't mean the Australians took it well:
The USWNT were comfortable enough during the second-half proceedings that coach Jill Ellis decided to bring on star forward Alex Morgan, whose last game came on April 4 against New Zealand due to a bone bruise in her knee.
Morgan replaced Sydney Leroux with the USA managing a two-goal cushion at 3-1 in minute 79. After eight weeks off the pitch, Morgan will surely need plenty more minutes to be a pivotal player later in the tournament. But the debate still rages on about whether the opener was the right match to reintroduce her again.
Group of Death? More like Group of Drama! The scoreline may not have reflected just how well Australia played, but the final result places the United States atop Group D with three points.
Monday's other group match featured a 3-3 thriller between Nigeria and Sweden which showcased many of their respective strengths and weaknesses ahead of their encounters with the USA, giving Ellis & Co. plenty to chew on in the coming days.
The USWNT next play Sweden on June 12 and then close out Group D play against Nigeria on June 16. And the support is expected to continue to be overwhelming from around the country. Here's how the nation experienced the game, according to Twitter:
And the US supporters in Winnipeg weren't too shabby themselves:
Among the USWNT fans seen on social media were artists like Paula Abdul as well as a host of NFL and NHL teams. But arguably the cutest supporter of the lot was seen with former United States powerhouse, and FIFA Female Player of the Century, Michelle Akers.