USWNT Pulls Away From Haiti in Olympic Qualifying Opener

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The U.S. women's national team didn't have the sharpest first match of 2020 Olympic qualifying, but it was at the very least a three-point start.

Christen Press's second-minute goal stood up for over an hour, until headers from Lynn Williams in the 67th minute, Lindsey Horan in the 73rd and Carli Lloyd in stoppage-time let the Americans pull away with a 4-0 win in Houston in Vlatko Andonovski's first competitive match as U.S. manager. The relatively modest scoreline keeps the U.S. in second place in its group after the first set of matches, with Costa Rica's 6-1 thrashing of Panama enough to lift the Costa Ricans into first on goal differential.

It looked like it would be a cakewalk for the reigning Women's World Cup champions against the 68th-ranked team in the world when Press volleyed home after Williams–who had lost a shoe in the process–crossed from the right soon after the opening whistle. 

The lopsided rout that may have been expected never unfolded until late, though. Haiti appeared to wrongfully have a would-be equalizer disallowed in the 19th minute when Roseline Eloissaint's flicked-on header at the near post off a corner kick trickled into the far corner of the goal. 

The assistant referee's flag went up to signal that Eloissaint was offside when the kick was taken, and while she was in an offside position, the rule does not apply on the kick itself. There was no handball, nor was there a foul, nor did the ball curl out of bounds on the set piece, leaving little in the way of proper reasoning for the nullified goal. 

The U.S. certainly didn't complain about the call, and it bossed the possession throughout the match, though it was wasteful with its chances. Lloyd uncharacteristically missed a numbed of gilt-edged opportunities after scoring three goals in her first two appearances under Andonovski, and it wasn't until the dying moments of the match that she finally got on the board.

Press had a bid at a second goal denied by a diving Kerly Theus in the 59th minute, her last meaningful action before coming out for Megan Rapinoe. It didn't take the reigning Ballon d'Or and SI Sportsperson of the Year winner to make an impact. Just over four minutes after her entrance, her corner kick found Williams for an insurance goal, making it 2-0 in the 67th minute. 

Six minutes after that, Rapinoe served up a cross for another substitute, Horan, whose header was parried by Theus off a defender and crossed the goal line before being cleared away.

Lloyd put the finishing touches on the match with a diving header from the center of the box, with Rapinoe playing it to Julie Ertz, who teed up Lloyd for the header in her former home NWSL stadium.

The U.S. trotted out eight of the 11 players who started in the Women's World Cup final, with the only differences being the front line of Press, Lloyd and Williams starting instead of Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and Rapinoe.

How much rotation there is going forward remains to be seen, with matches coming at a rapid-fire pace to close group play. The Americans will face Panama on Friday before finishing up vs. Costa Rica next Monday.

The top two in Concacaf's Group A will advance to the semifinal round, where the two winners clinch the region's berths at the 2020 Olympics. Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis are in Group B.