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USWNT not its best, but Rapinoe, Solo spark World Cup win over Australia

The U.S. women's national team had to work harder than many expected, but it opened its Women's World Cup run with a 3-1 win over Australia. Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press, and embattled goalkeeper Hope Solo came up with a few highlight-reel saves. Here are three thoughts on the result:

WINNIPEG, Canada — The U.S. had to work harder than many had expected in its first game of the Women’s World Cup, but the Americans persevered against a tough Australia team to win 3–1 on Monday night at Winnipeg Stadium. After the U.S. had been lucky to be tied at 1–1 entering halftime, a well-taken Christen Press goal in the 61st minute off Sydney Leroux’s assist put the U.S. ahead, and Rapinoe’s second goal of the game finished off the game Aussies.

The win leaves the U.S. atop Group D with three points, ahead of Sweden and Nigeria with one point (after their 3–3 tie) and Australia with zero points.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

Good teams win when they’re not at their best

For most of the first 60 minutes, Australia was the better team in almost every aspect: passing, movement and chances. Coach Jill Ellis will see plenty that can be worked on. But the U.S. has better fitness than Australia, and that fitness allowed the Americans to play better technically, too, in the second half.

The U.S. became more dynamic, the passes started flowing and then the goals came. Leroux’s run on the go-ahead goal was an aria of power (followed by Press’s surgical finish), and Rapinoe did her own knifework to score her second and give the U.S. a cushion on the Aussies. When people see this 3–1 scoreline they might not realize how hard the game really was. But fighting through those challenges to bag three points is what good teams do.

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Hope Solo came to play

There were those who wondered if Solo would be in top form after Sunday’s ESPN story providing new public details on her domestic abuse case. But Solo came up huge from the start on Monday, making two remarkable saves in the first 13 minutes.

On the first one, she parried a hard strike from Emily Van Egmond off the crossbar, and on the second one Solo somehow blocked a point-blank shot by Samantha Kerr off a free kick right after Rapinoe’s goal. Over 90 minutes Solo did everything that was asked of her. It’s easy to see why she’s in goal: When she’s in form, there’s no keeper in the world who can touch her.

The U.S. knows it needs to work on some things

The timing on Abby Wambach’s headers. The space left open in the central midfield. Movement off the ball. Wide play. Dynamism in general. Those are just some of the areas where the U.S. will need to be better in Game 2 against a Sweden team that will want to redeem itself after coughing up two leads against Nigeria to gain a disappointing point on Monday.

And given that two yellow cards for a player in any matches between Game 1 and the quarterfinals will result in a one-game suspension, the soft yellows to Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday will force them to be wary moving forward. But the first game is out of the way, and three points are on the board. It’s the start the U.S. wanted.