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USWNT starts 2023 with a win over World Cup co-hosts New Zealand

USWNT starts 2023 with a win over World Cup co-hosts New Zealand

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The United States women’s national team got off to a successful start in a potentially historic 2023 in New Zealand on Tuesday.

After a scoreless first half against co-hosts Wellington 2023, USA scored twice in the second half from Mallory Swanson (née Pugh) plus strikes from Alex Morgan and Lynn Williams in a 4-0 win for the defending world Master.

The Americans will aim to become the first team, male or female, to win three straight world titles when this year’s event gets underway in July in Australia and New Zealand.

Here are three thoughts on Tuesday’s win.

Swanson is making a name for himself…

Playing her first match since marrying the Chicago Cubs’ Dansby Swanson last month, Swanson did her best to cement her place on the field this summer as her forward Megan Rapinoe and 2022 USWNT Player of the Year Sophia Smith was absent this month due to minor injuries. The second-youngest member of the 2019 trophy-winning squad, Swanson has been in the form of her career for the past 12 months. That brilliant game continued in this year’s opening game.

Compared to most of her teammates, the winger was hardly rusty – January games aren’t usually pretty after the NWSL’s long off-season. Swanson looked sharply dangerous throughout the game and she took her two goals recklessly. The first came with a spot-on header, the second after a run behind the Kiwis’ defence:

If Swanson is due to start Down Under this summer it will likely be alongside Smith and Alex Morgan if they are healthy. That would have Midge Purce (who started Tuesday and showed well enough in 45 minutes of action) and Williams (who earned her tally after a 2022-devastated injury) would be up for roles off the bench alongside the topic of the next section helping her significantly on Tuesday.

[Swanson and Smith: ‘Bonafide stars and the future of USWNT]

… as well as Trinity Rodman

With two assists off the bench, 20-year-old Rodman made her best performance for her country on her 10th international cap. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Rodman is a special talent; It’s not her ability, but the USWNT’s absurd forward depth that has kept Rodman from taking on a bigger role so far.

But World Cups also have a habit of producing young stars and Rodman seems to have a knack for capitalizing on their opportunities, like her assist on Williams’ header that ended the loss:

While the deadlock at the top makes a starring role at Australia/New Zealand 2023 seem unlikely now, a lot could change in six months. Morgan will be 34 when the World Cup begins. Rapinoe turns 38. Injuries happen, even for young players like 22-year-old Smith. Just one or two could open the door for Rodman, who feels destined to make a name for herself on the biggest stage in one way or another this year.

More information about the World Cup line-up

An hour before the start of the friendly – ​​set alongside Friday’s second leg as an essential part of the holders’ World Cup preparation – US coach Vlatko Andonovski gave an insight into the national team’s pecking order ahead of the competition.

There’s plenty of time for Andonovski’s opinions to change over the next six months, of course – that’s one of the main points of this camp, plus next month’s three SheBelieves Cup competitions against Brazil, Canada and Japan. But the manager’s first line-up in 2023 made some things clearer.

It looks like veteran goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s job is to lose at the net. Crystal Dunn, who returned from maternity leave last October, is likely to be the first choice for left-back, while Emily Alaska Green Light Blog takes on left-back against Emily Sonnett (and perhaps Kelley O’Hara) at right-back.

It is telling that defensive midfielder Taylor Kornieck, on her first start in the United States, landed the role that Julie Ertz, who was still out after giving birth to her first child last August, filled most of Andonovski’s tenure . The manager kept Lindsey Horan in a more attacking role alongside Rose Lavelle, while Sullivan replaced Kornieck at the break.

There are certainly some rotations planned for Friday, and this game will no doubt tell us more about where the US stands. How much? While the US may have avoided the kind of World Cup-opener defeat they suffered against France in 2015-19, Tuesday’s encounter suggested they still have work to do. The Football Ferns, ranked 24th in FIFA, are not Les Bleus and the Americans’ performance was not particularly impressive despite the one-sided final result. They will try to rectify that when these teams meet again in three days.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for Alaska Green Light Blog Sports. Before joining Alaska Green Light Blog Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By DougMcIntyre.

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