The United States Women's National Team won the first match of their three-game send off series ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. The South African team is also preparing for the tournament, and there are some positive aspects to take away for both teams. Despite the relatively equal scoreline, the game was never really in question and the United States remained in control for almost the entire match. The USA played a far from flawless game. There were large stretches of time, especially in the first 30 minutes, when they all seemed to be on different pages, but this is the time to iron out those kinks.
The United States can beat mediocre teams
With no disrespect towards South Africa, this match went largely to plan. There are few teams in the world that can compete with the USWNT. The ability to easily cruise past lower opponents is what separates the upper echelon of international teams from those in the middle, and it is what will get the USA through the group stage of the tournament with ease.
The USWNT is overflowing with talent. Early in the match, midfielder Julie Ertz took a knock to the mouth, and the spent the better part of the first half on the sideline getting cleaned up or running around with a rag in her mouth to soak up the blood. Despite effectively missing a player, the USA was able to continue their dominance over South Africa. The final tally for possession was 71%-29% in favor of the Americans.
In the 37th minute, Sam Mewis would finally break through and score the first goal for her team. She was able to get the ball at the top of the 18, faked like she was going to drive into the box, then cut back to get the ball on her right foot. She didn't kick the leather off the ball, but she was shielded from the keeper and the shot was put perfectly into the right side of goal to take a one-goal lead.
It would be almost as long before her second goal. Halftime substitute Megan Rapinoe sent a hard cross from left to right across the box. The pass ended up being just a little too close to the South African goalkeeper who got a glove on the ball. Fortunately for the USA, the ball deflected right off the foot of Mewis for her second goal of the match.
The United States would continue pushing, and in the 90+2 minute, Carli Lloyd would add another goal to her illustrious career. She poked the ball right between the goalkeeper's legs from close range.
This match was mostly about fitness for the USA. Rose Lavelle and Kelley O'Hara both played limited minutes in an effort to get them back to game fitness, and substitute Rapinoe was brought on late for a similar reason. Rapinoe didn't play a single minute for her club team, Reign FC, in their three matches before leaving the team due to a nagging injury. Assuming no new injuries arise, this team should have no problem moving out of the group stage and making a run for a fourth World Cup title.
South Africa prove to be a difficult opponent to break down
There aren't any sources picking the South African squad to progress deep into the tournament, but their performance on Sunday night suggests that they might have a chance at reaching the knockout round. The team was missing a few of their traditional starters, including Thembi Kgatlana who used to play for the Houston Dash in the National Women's Soccer League. Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo are both players with tremendous pace and attacking ability, and their return for the World Cup should bolster the team offensively.
Defensively, South Africa played a solid match. They mostly kept their shape and prevented the USA from taking easy shots on goal. In a group with Germany, China, and Spain, there are no easy points to be won, but it might take just a single surprise victory to move forward in the tournament.