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USWNT, Morgan Ruthless in Women's World Cup Opener vs. Thailand

The U.S. women's national team smashed records and sent a message after a 13-0 rout of hapless Thailand in their Women's World Cup opener.

The U.S. women's national team was among the last two to finally open play at the 2019 Women's World Cup–and it made sure that wait was worthwhile. The defending-champion United States showed no mercy, crushing Thailand 13-0 in Reims on Tuesday. Led by Alex Morgan’s five goals, the U.S. made history by scoring the most goals by any team in a World Cup

The U.S. needed to make a statement in their first game to establish dominance and prove it can defend its title–especially after the impressive performance France put on in the tournament opener four days ago with a 4-0 win over South Korea. Since Les Bleues’ victory, no other power has been close to showing why it can win this competition. Contenders like Germany, Canada and the Netherlands squeaked by inferior opponents all by 1-0 scorelines. England edged Scotland 2-1. Brazil handled Jamaica 3-0, but has tough group games ahead.

“We really wanted to showcase ourselves and show what we’ve been preparing for,” Morgan said on FOX's broadcast after the game.

Now, the U.S. has three points and five days to prepare for its next match against Women's World Cup first-timer Chile, which fell 2-0 to Sweden in a tight, weather-delayed bout. In the meantime, here are three thoughts from the American’s ruthless victory:

The rout was on early

This was exactly the start the U.S. wanted, with three goals coming before halftime … and 10 more coming in the second half. Seven players scored: Morgan had five—easily putting herself at the forefront of the Golden Boot conversation—Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle each had two in their World Cup debuts, and Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd all added one apiece.

The U.S. attack has been lauded for having the most firepower and talent as any group in national team history. This could very well be true, although tougher opponents with stronger back lines loom later in the tournament. But Tuesday, they were sharp, crisp, and came out with an overwhelming amount of confidence. Thailand couldn’t do anything about it.

The Americans will be criticized for piling goals on and celebrating every single one, but in the past they’ve also been criticized for not blowing out lesser competition. The U.S. had an opportunity to make a statement and it did. Plus, goal differential could matter in the way the U.S. finishes the group–although with a +13 after one game, it's safe to say any tiebreaker would fall the Americans' way.

“Every goal matters,” Morgan said. “We were clinical in our attack.”

Morgan breaks out in a big way

With her five goals, Morgan tied U.S. Soccer legend Michelle Akers as the only two players in history to score five goals in a Women's World Cup game. Mentally, it was going to be important for Morgan to score a lot of goals in the group stage—and five in the first game is certainly exceeding expectations.

Go back four years, when Morgan wasn’t herself heading into the 2015 Women's World Cup. Her minutes were limited initially while she nursed a knee injury. Morgan only scored one goal that whole tournament—in the round of 16 against Colombia—and starting out like this could be a game-changer for the 29-year-old captain, who snapped a 302-minute goalless drought in a big way.

We knew heading into this summer that Morgan was playing the best soccer of her career. Last month, she became just the seventh U.S. women’s soccer player to score 100 goals, joining the elite company of Abby Wambach (184, most all-time men or women), Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Lloyd (110), Akers (107) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). And now she could be on a scoring warpath.


Sauerbrunn's absence worth monitoring

Starting center back Becky Sauerbrunn did not play against Thailand due to what’s been described as a mild quadriceps issue, according to U.S. Soccer. Though Sauerbrunn’s situation is precautionary right now—her absence was clearly not a big deal in a lopsided victory—it’s something to keep an eye on as the tournament progresses.

Not having Sauerbrunn in the group stage against weaker attacks is one thing, but what happens if the U.S. and France meet in the quarterfinals? Not having a 100% Sauerbrunn would be a big deal then. She’s become an irreplaceable, fearless leader and moving forward without her could cause directional issues in a defense that already lacks a significant amount of depth.

Against Thailand, Jill Ellis dropped Julie Ertz into the center back role and started Mewis in the midfield. Ertz was a bruising defender during the 2015 Women's World Cup and moving back from the midfield for this game was a small adjustment. Ellis could have gone with 20-year-old newcomer Tierna Davidson, who came in for Sauerbrunn while she dealt with a different injury during the SheBelieves Cup, but opted for more experience in the opening game with Ertz. The early indications are that Sauerbrunn's condition is not a cause for concern. Time will tell.