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Lloyd, Morgan Score as USWNT Beat New Zealand 2-0 in Olympic Opener

Alex Morgan (Photo by Double G Media)

Alex Morgan (Photo by Double G Media)


The USWNT beat New Zealand 2-0 as they began their quest to win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal. The goals came from Delran, New Jersey native Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan as the team won their 12th straight match at the Olympic Games.

US coach Jill Ellis went with a starting lineup that surprised many at first, leaving Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn, who hails from Rockville Centre, NY, on the bench. In their place were Huntington, NY native Allie Long and Mallory Pugh, respectively. In total, Ellis started four players with roots to the New York/New Jersey area, including Tobin Heath, who calls New Jersey her home state, and Kelley O’Hara, who plies her trade for the New Jersey based Sky Blue FC of the NWSL.

The US dominated the match early on, and were rewarded before the tenth minute with a goal from Lloyd. Heath, from distance, sent a pinpoint cross into the penalty area. The ball found the head of the captain, and was soon redirected past New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler nine minutes into the match. New Zealand protested the goal at first, claiming that US defender Julie Johnston was in an offside position, but referee Kateryna Monzul decided Johnston did not interfere with the play, and so the goal stood. The United States were dominant throughout the first half, leaving their defense with very little to do.

The second half went similarly to the first, though the US were quicker to get their goal in the second 45 minutes. After a freekick materialized into very little, Brian found the ball on the edge of the penalty area, and sent it to a running Morgan. The forward was in a difficult wide position, but she managed to squeeze the ball in right past the near post and past Nayler for the 2-0 lead.

The match was a highly contentious affair between the two teams. Despite the US easily edging their opposition in goals, New Zealand kept the possession stats close, holding 45% of possession while the reigning World Champions held 55% of possession. The two teams were also very physical with one another, New Zealand edging the US 16 to ten in fouls. Of the three yellow cards that were handed out during the match, all three went the Oceanic team’s way.

New Zealand managed a majority of their chances in the second half, managing four shots in total. Hope Solo was hardly seen during the ninety minutes, but in stoppage time of the second half, the two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Glove winner had to be alert. She faced a late shot from New Zealand from close range, and despite remaining inactive throughout the 90 minutes, did not miss a beat and easily stopped the ball, keeping a clean sheet in the process.

Solo, though relatively silent during the match, ended up being one of the bigger talking points following the win. Prior to the beginning of the tournament, she was vocal in her worries about the Zika virus, tweeting a picture of insect repellant before heading to Brazil, and then criticizing the American media for being “really tough on the people of Brazil.” During the match, Brazilians in the stadium would boo the goalkeeper and eventually resorted to chanting “Zika” during her goal kicks.

Solo, speaking after the match with NBC, took it in stride. “At least it’s loud in the stadium,” she said. “I’d rather have that than hear a needle drop,” she concluded.

The US also left the match with injury concerns to Pugh, who first went down in the 22nd minute and was eventually substituted off for Dunn in the 50th minute. The 18-year-old walked off the field with a limp, hurting her ankle in her Olympic debut. A further update on Pugh’s condition will be provided before the US’ next match.

The US resumes Group G play at the Olympics against the third-best team in the world, France, on Saturday, August 6, before ending the group against Colombia on Tuesday, August 9.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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