Houston, Texas — The road to Tokyo has begun and it certainly kicked off to an unexpected start. The United States began group play against Haiti on Tuesday night in Houston. These two teams have previously played each other only six times, with the Unites States winning all six games. This first match of Concacaf Olympic Qualifying was considered to be no different for the USWNT.
This is only the third game under Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski. The first two friendlies were a success winning both games back in November, against Sweden and Costa Rica. With changes to the roster made and a difficult January Camp behind them, we are able to see where the U.S. now stands under Andonovski.
The starting XI included familiar faces we saw during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the exception of one new one: Lynn Williams. Andonovski called her up to the national team after replacing previous head coach Jill Ellis. However, this is not her first call up, as she has been on and off the roster since 2016.
Seeing that this is the first match of the tournament, there is no surprise to see players such as Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath on the bench.
Before the start of the game, a moment of silence was held for the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, as he was a constant supporter of the game.
"Regardless of how we played, the result was positive."
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) January 29, 2020
Haiti was not the team that struggled
As the whistle blew, it was clear to see how the U.S. planned to dominate over Haiti. After two minutes, Williams lost her left cleat, but continued to drive with the ball. This set up for a beautiful assist to Christen Press in the box, making the score 1-0 early on.
Despite having the chance to score a goal early on, Haiti played quite a game giving the U.S. a hard time. It was clear to see how a 79-day gap of competitive play affected the USWNT’s momentum. Even though, statistically, they had the majority of the control, Haiti fought hard when defending. The young Haitian roster seemed aware that possession was going to be their weakness. Therefore, Haiti put a substantial amount of effort into defending when fighting off players such as Julie Ertz.
Throughout the first half there were many close calls for both teams. The most bewildering call of the night was Haiti’s almost goal during the 18th minute. The referee called the goal offside, without using the assistance of VAR technology. The call was made quick and unclear; even commentators stumbled on how to react.
However, Haiti was able to keep the score 1-0 during the first half as the U.S. continued to struggle connecting passes and settling near the box. The down pour that occurred during the last 15 minutes of the first half caused the ball to be over-kicked numerous times. It was a rather disappointing start for the game.
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) January 29, 2020
Megan Rapinoe with the assists
USA began the second half with no substitutions. However, after 60 minutes of play, Rapinoe warmed up and entered for Press, who was named Player of the Match. Seven minutes after Rapinoe entered the pitch, she set up the ball for the first time to give Lynn Williams the assist she’d been waiting for all night — this time with both cleats.
At the 67th minute, Lindsey Horan entered for Rose Lavelle, who was given a yellow card prior to Rapinoe’s entrance. Three minutes after Horan had entered the game, Rapinoe passed to her for the third goal of the night. It became noticeable how the A-team we saw during the World Cup is crucial to the success of the USWNT.
Just when you thought the game was over, with four minutes of stoppage time remaining, Rapinoe passed to Ertz who connected with Carli Lloyd in the box for a straight shot to the back of the net in the 93rd minute. The final score was 4-0.
The USWNT, aware this was not their best performance, were lucky to have pushed through to grab the win. These three points puts them underneath Costa Rica, who won earlier in the night with a score of 6-1 against Panama. Both teams, though, have three points in the standings.
The USWNT will prepare to take on Panama this Friday in Houston at 8:30 p.m. ET to continue group play.
Who says you need two boots on to provide an assist ⁉️
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) January 29, 2020
USWNT Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX — JANUARY 28: Lynn Williams #13 of USA celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal of her team during the group A game between United States and Haiti as part of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium on January 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images).