The USWNT’s quest to become the first team to go back-to-back-to-back at the Women’s World Cup got off to a good start. While the team wasn’t able to score 13 goals like it did in its opener back in 2019, the Americans put forth an emphatic performance against Vietnam in Auckland that resulted in a 3-0 win.
From the jump, it was evident that the United States would be able to control the game against Vietnam, but they ran into a problem in just how compact their opponents were playing — Vietnam lined up in a 5-4-1 and were very clearly doing everything in their power to prevent the USWNT from embarrassing them. Fortunately for the Americans, they have a pretty good answer for that in Sophia Smith, who scored 14 minutes in off of a cheeky layoff by Alex Morgan.
Unlocking Vietnam’s defense proved to be tricky, because while the U.S. had a whole lot of the ball, the ultra-defensive approach Vietnam took mixed with the fearlessness of goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh looked like it was going to limit the Americans to only one goal before the break. That was especially the case after Morgan was denied from the penalty spot right before injury time.
Once again, though, Smith was able to find a breakthrough. While it needed a lengthy VAR review to determine Morgan was not offside on a ball Naomi Girma played into the box, Smith was able to get a shot off from near the top of the box that found its way through a collection of bodies and into the back of the net.
The second half followed much of the same script, as the United States had chances but couldn’t find a third. But once again, Smith’s involvement led to a goal, as she managed to get behind Vietnam’s defense and pulled the goalkeeper out of the net. Instead of attempting a shot, though, she decided to play the ball back to the penalty spot, where American captain Lindsey Horan was waiting. Smith’s work gave and Horan’s understanding of where the space would be as a result gave the captain more than enough time to take a touch, get her feet right, and score.
Vietnam generally managed to do what it set out to do — their best chance at getting something out of this was to muck things up, never open up defensively, and prevent the Americans from scoring in bunches — but ultimately, all three points went to the two-time defending champions, even if they certainly created enough champions to score more goals. Next up for the United States is a rematch of the 2019 Women’s World Cup final against the Netherlands, which will kick off at 9 p.m. EST on July 27.