Aurora; Colorado — Played in Auckland, New Zealand at Eden Park — USA vs. Vietnam was a game of many firsts; Vietnam's first World Cup, the first time both teams have met and Savannah DeMelo becoming the first player in USWNT history to start a World Cup match in one of her first two caps or appearances. The beginning of the game was rusty, especially with Trinity Rodman receiving a nasty tackle from Vietnam defender Thu Tran within the first minute. That first tackle signaled what was to come in the rest of the match, a physical game.
The U.S. took time to grow into the game, slowly looking more comfortable on the pitch. However, in an excellent series of events, the US manages to score in the fourteenth minute. Building out the defense, San Diego Wave Fútbol Club defender Naomi Girma passes the ball up the field to creative midfielder Lindsey Horan. Horan quickly slices the ball to Alex Morgan, who then pings it toward Sophie Smith. Smith runs into the box with the ball and scores. Looking thrilled she does a secret handshake with fellow Coloradan Horan to celebrate.
After the goal, the USWNT had most of the possession due to accurate or completed passes all over the field. At the same time, Vietnam’s overly defensive tactics and great goalkeeper stopped the US from getting the ball in the back of the net despite many chances. In the forty-fourth minute, Vietnamese defender Hoang Thi Loan trips up Trinity Rodman in the box, giving the US a penalty. Alex Morgan attempts to score but is stopped by goalkeeper Trần Thị Kim Thanh, who knew exactly where Morgan was going to place the ball. Nearing the end of the half, in the fifty-ninth minute, Smith picks up a loose ball in the penalty box and slams it into the net ending the first half two-to-zero.
When the game restarts, the US seems to go back onto the field with less quality. Vietnam had more of the ball than in the first half, although they didn’t make much of it with zero shots attempted. The US players seemed to lack the killer touch in the attacking third for most of the second half. Finally, during the 77th minute, Smith dribbles past a number of Vietnamese defenders into the penalty box and unselfishly passes to Lindsey Horan who is positioned perfectly to shoot the ball straight into the net. As the stadium roared, Horan celebrated by proudly displaying the US badge on her jersey.
For the rest of the second half, the U.S. struggled to get past the Vietnamese defense and when they did, those in front lacked the quality touch to get the ball over the goal line. Overall the first game for the U.S. in the group stage was an easy and important win. The players on the field deserve credit for a great performance despite making a few mistakes.
Player Of The Match
Sophia Smith, forward for the Portland Thorns FC, was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch against Vietnam. Playing the whole 90 minutes, she was involved in all three goals, scoring two and assisting one making her first in the Golden Boot race. When Smith was on the ball, both the audience and Vietnam held their breath expecting something great to come from her. Smith was named the Player of the Match and had the trophy presented to her by her dad, which made for a sweet moment.
Worst Performing Player
In her first World Cup,18-year-old Alyssa Thompson was subbed on for Trinity Rodman and played 16 minutes for the U.S. Thompson did not make any significant effect on the game, being mostly ineffective. At the time the game was practically won and her appearance on the field was to give her a chance to taste what it is like to play a World Cup game for future benefit, rather than affecting the game at hand.
The U.S. plays its second match of the group stage against the Netherlands, a familiar foe, on Wednesday. Back in the 2019 World Cup final, the U.S. railed over the Netherlands with a 2-0 win with goals from Megan Rapineo and Rose Lavelle, who are both on the current 2023 roster. With that in mind and a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the Women's Euros to France, the Dutch are looking for vengeance. The US has a tough game on hand against an experienced team with players from top clubs in Europe. Despite the great difference in quality from Vietnam to the Netherlands, the USWNT is expected to step up their performance and fight for a well-deserved win.
Ayah Al-Masyabi, (she/her) is from Aurora, Colorado, and is an artist, writer and journalist who covers culture and sports. Follow her on Instagram @ayahalmart.
Edited by Nykeya Woods