Ruthless USWNT hit six against New Zealand to revive Olympic campaign

The United States women’s national team rebounded from their opening loss with a 6-1 rout of New Zealand in front of the first lady on Saturday at the Tokyo Olympics.

With the United States leading 2-0 at the break, Jill Biden arrived in time to watch the team put the game away in the second half at Saitama Stadium.

The United States were stunned by Sweden in their first match, losing 3-0. It was the team’s first loss since January 2019, and snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak. The Americans had not been held scoreless since 2017. But the Americans vowed to regain control of the tournament. Defender Kelley O’Hara said the United States needed to be “ruthless” against New Zealand – and they were exactly that on Saturday.

Rose Lavelle scored off a well-placed pass from Tobin Heath in the ninth minute to give the United States an early lead and the team’s first goal of the Olympics. Despite the lack of goals, the Americans dominated the half, unlike their out-of-sorts start against the Swedes.

Lindsey Horan scored with a header in the final moments of the half to put the United States up 2-0 at the break. It was Horan’s 23rd international goal and it came on her 100th appearance for the national team. It could have been worse for New Zealand but the United States had four disallowed goals, all for offside, in the first half.

An own-goal by Abby Erceg extended the US lead to 3-0 in the 64th. New Zealand avoided the shutout with Betsy Hassett’s goal in the 72nd.

Christen Press, who came in as a second-half substitute, scored in the 80th off a pass from Julie Ertz, before Alex Morgan scored in the final minutes of regulation. Another New Zealand own-goal closed out the game in stoppage time.

US coach Vlatko Andonovski made five changes to the starting lineup he used against Sweden, giving Carli Lloyd the start over Morgan, Megan Rapinoe for Press, Ertz for Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett for O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson for captain Becky Sauerbrunn.

The United States, the reigning World Cup champions, have been to every Olympics since women’s soccer joined the event in 1996. The world’s top-ranked team has five gold medals, more than any other nation. The US also lost their first match of the 2008 Beijing Games, falling to Norway 2-0, but went on to win the gold. Their nemesis at the Olympics has been Sweden, who knocked out the Americans at the Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals five years ago.

New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in their opening match and the Ferns’ chances of reaching the knockout round grew slim with Saturday’s loss. New Zealand, coached by former USWNT coach Tom Sermanni, had not played any matches since March 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions.

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