Monday night the USWNT squared off against Australia in each team’s first match of Group D action at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The United States women have never lost to the Australian side in 25 matches, and have outscored their opponents 83-20. On Monday night, U.S midfielder Megan Rapinoe showed off her creative flare early in the match as she danced around players in Australia’s defensive third and then scored in the 12th minute as her shot deflected off defender, Laura Alleway and re-directed into the lower far post. Rapinoe's goal opened the scoring for the United States after a nervy start saw Hope Solo called into action to make a number of thrilling saves just to keep things scoreless.
Despite a spirited start from both sides, the Matildas soon responded to the deficit with a goal of their own in the 27th minute. Star striker Lisa De Vanna of Australia found a pocket of space behind the United States back line and easily buried her shot past the outstretched arms of Solo. De Vanna is the spearhead of Australia’s attack and is a lethal combination of lightning speed, tactical awareness, and technical prowess. De Vanna is well respected in the women’s soccer community and is known for her famous bicycle kick goal that she scored for Sky Blue FC against the Boston Breakers in the 2013 NWSL season.
In the second half the U.S came out with a fire and in the 61st minute they were finally able to break the tie. United State’s forward Sydney Leroux used her speed and strength to fight to the end line only to beautifully reverse pass the ball to an open Christen Press. Press one-timed the ball into the far side netting for her first World Cup goal and the eventual game winner. However, the U.S wasn’t done yet. In the 78th minute the US once again got on the board with a second goal from Rapinoe. She took on her defender 1v1 after a 30 yard run and quickly fired off a shot into the far side netting. Rapinoe’s goal came from almost the exact spot as Press’s goal just five minutes before.
It was a far more assured performance from the United States in the second half after they really struggled in the game's opening half. In the post match press conference, Rapinoe spoke about the nerves the team felt, and how Solo kept them in the match during the first period. However, there was a definitive shift in the play of the United States after the break. While this was far from a World Cup winning performance, it is one that will relieve USWNT fans after the mediocre draw against South Korea last week.
After an exciting first day from group D, Sweden and Nigeria battled to an exhausting 3-3 tie and the U.S came away with a strong victory against Australia. The U.S leads the Group of Death with 3 points ahead of Sweden and Nigeria with one point each and ahead of Australia who sits at the bottom of the table with zero points. As always the next two games for all teams will be crucial but with Nigeria looking stronger than ever, Sweden will need to step up their game if they expect to advance past the group stage.