U.S. WNT Kicks Off WCQ Campaign with Impressive Win, Looks Ahead to Panama

2018 U.S. Women's National Team
2018 U.S. Women's National Team

The U.S. Women’s National Team wanted to make a statement in its opening game of World Cup qualifying.

Mission accomplished.

For the third time this year, the U.S. Women overpowered Mexico, roaring to a 6-0 victory in the opening match of the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship on Thursday night in Cary, N.C.

“It’s a great start for us, a big confidence boost,” U.S. WNT forward Megan Rapinoe said following the game. “We definitely wanted to come out, have a good performance and feel good about it. I think we did that today.”

The U.S. WNT dominated the match from the opening whistle and penetrated the Mexican blockade in just the third minute as Rapinoe scored her first of two goals. For the rest of the half, the U.S. then surgically dissected the Mexico defense which featured five defenders, but despite out-shooting Mexico 11-0, the Americans could not create a second goal and went into halftime with the 1-0 lead. The USA started quickly again, getting an early goal to start the second half as Julie Ertz converted just over a minute after the re-start, and then the floodgates opened to the tune of five goals in the second half.

“Scoring six goals to open a tournament is fantastic,” said U.S. WNT forward Tobin Heath, who scored the best goal of the night with a powerful header off a perfect cross from Crystal Dunn. “I’m really pleased with the team’s performance. I thought obviously coming out scoring that goal right away was great, but we didn’t really get going again until the second half so just the discipline to play our game and follow through on the game plan was important. The second half was great with scoring all those goals. It was exactly the way we wanted to start this tournament.”

Alex Morgan, just like she did in each of the two friendly matches against Mexico earlier this year on April 5 and April 8 , scored a brace – the 20th of her career and her 24th multi-goal game – and upped her career total to 92 goals. One of Morgan’s goals was assisted by center back Becky Sauerbrunn, who stormed up the left side flank and ended up inside the penalty box before playing a pass from the end line for Morgan to blast through the legs of the Mexican goalkeeper.

Rapinoe provided Morgan with the other assist, a common theme for the U.S forwards. Rapinoe, who now lead the U.S. team with 10 assists in 2018, has assisted Morgan five times since April 8.

While wearing the captain’s armband, Rapinoe added another goal in the second half to record her sixth career brace. In classic Rapinoe fashion, she also made sure to add some flair to the night during several goal celebrations.

“Alex saw (the goal celebration) online, it was one of her FIFA19 celebrations,” Rapinoe said with a laugh after the game. “We’re always trying to find different celebrations, we’ve always kind of done that since we’ve been on the team. It’s just kind of a fun way to get those little smiles in the game anyway we can. That was a fun one we came up with on the bus on the way to the game, so we’ll have to keep that going.”

Despite the big win, the U.S. players know that there is still much work to be done, with three positive results in seven days needed to earn a spot in the all-important semifinals on Oct. 14 in Frisco, Texas.

“We’re obviously on cloud nine,” Morgan said following the win. “But we have to be cautious moving forward. When you get into World Cup qualifiers or any major tournament like this, teams step up and play at different levels and we have a huge target on our backs, especially after that first game. Now we’re looking forward to Panama.”