USWNT takes first step towards Tokyo with 4-0 win over Haiti
The USWNT opened its Olympic qualifying campaign with a comfortable 4-0 win over Haiti in Houston. ASN's John Halloran breaks down the game and looks at the first steps of a journey the team hopes ends in Tokyo.
BY John Halloran PostedTHE UNITED STATES women’s national team opened up Olympic qualifying on Tuesday night, beating Haiti 4-0 in Houston.
January 29, 2020
January 29, 2020
The Americans got off to a quick start in the contest, scoring only 78 seconds into the match when Lynn Williams won the endline and served the ball across the face of goal for Christen Press to put away.
Surprisingly, Williams even lost her shoe before the play began and still managed to not only beat her defender on a sprint, but earn the assist.
Shoe on, shoe off, nbd. Lynn Williams delivers the assist. pic.twitter.com/ToKxLYHKNf— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) January 29, 2020
From there, however, the U.S. struggled. Every player on the team spend the rest of the half missing simple passes, taking bad touches, losing possession on the dribble, and struggling to put together any sort of worthwhile combination play. Haiti, for their part, even generated a handful of legitimate scoring opportunities.
A deflected header in the 15th minute went loose in the U.S. penalty area and sent the American defense and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher scrambling and then, only two minutes later, a Haitian shot from distance forced Naeher to push away a shot heading towards the top corner of her net.
On the ensuing corner kick, Haiti scored, but an incorrect offside call from the assistant referee kept the U.S. ahead 1-0.
There are a fair number of explanations for what went wrong for the defending world champions on the night. For one, the team is coming off a two-and-a-half month break and certainly has a valid excuse for being rusty. It looks like a lot of the players actually took that as a full-on break—a bad thing for looking sharp in qualifying, but a good thing for a team that needed to get some rest after a grueling summer and fall and stay fresh for this summer’s Olympic push.
It’s also important to recognize just how good Haiti was, winning numerous 1 v. 1 battles on Tuesday and putting together a few counterattacks that had managed to break the U.S. down.
The Americans probably also took their opponent a bit lightly, expecting a big and easy win, and weren’t completely mentally prepared for how scrappy Haiti would prove on the night.
Six years ago, the U.S. looked poor early on in World Cup qualifying, only besting Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in their opening match and then managing only a 1-0 lead over Guatemala by halftime of their second game. Obviously, things back on track from there, but it’s also important to recognize that qualification isn’t preordained.
In 2011 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. lost in the semifinals to Mexico and had to go to a home-and-home playoff with Italy to earn their spot. With only two CONCACAF spots open for the Olympics, a similar stumble in next Friday’s semifinal would mean the American team doesn’t go to Tokyo this summer.
As the game wore on, and Haiti’s fitness wavered, the U.S. was finally able to pull away. In the 67th minute, Williams—the Americans’ best player on the night—tallied with a header off a Megan Rapinoe corner kick.
Then Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle had shots saved before Lindsey Horan added the third goal on a header from 10 yards out. Carli Lloyd then wrapped up the scoring in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time to produce the final scoreline.
The U.S. next plays on Friday against Panama (8:30 ET, Fox Soccer Plus).
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.