Current time in Tokyo: July 24, 10:30 p.m.
SAITAMA, Japan — The first game just wasn’t good enough, Kelley O’Hara told her United States teammates in no uncertain terms.
The loss of a single match, even the opening game of the Olympic tournament, was one thing. The lack of energy. The absence of purpose. The surrender of control — those were things a world champion like the United States women’s soccer team could never accept. That was what had to change.
“We don’t have a choice,” O’Hara made clear to her United States soccer teammates ahead of Saturday’s game against New Zealand. “We have to come out the next game and we have to be absolutely ruthless.”
Ruthless was a good description for the effort the United States turned in against New Zealand, a 6-1 thrashing that was the polar opposite of the Americans’ disastrous performance against Sweden only three nights earlier. Then, the United States had been dominated from start to finish. On Saturday, they were the ones delivering the beating.
Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan scored in the first half and the substitutes Christen Press and Alex Morgan added goals to two New Zealand own goals to complete what was, from a United States perspective, a welcome 180-degree turnaround.
The Americans were relentless from the opening minutes, pressing the attack, hunting for the ball in the rare moments when they lost possession and righting their ship in resounding fashion.
How big was the win? It could have been far worse if the United States hadn’t had four goals ruled out on offside calls in the first half.
Next up? A game against Australia in Kashima on Tuesday, and a chance to build some momentum ahead of the knockout rounds. Based on Saturday’s effort, that is a feeling the United States has regained in abundance.
FULL TIME: The whistle blows moments later and it’s all over: United States 6, New Zealand 1. And trust us: It wasn’t that close.
90′ + 2 GOAL! That’s an even half dozen as CJ Bott deflects in a Press shot for an own goal at the back post.
That one was the pretty bow on this victory: Alex Morgan at the back post with a striker’s finish.
88′ GOAL! Morgan makes its 5-1.
Ertz sends in a cross from the right but that finish is all about Christen Press: a trap with her left thigh, a quick shift of her weight as the ball drops right at her feet and the defenders part, and a cool finish with the other foot.
That’s a real bit of skill right there — it’s harder than it looks to deaden a driven cross right where you want it — and a terrific finish.
The United States leads, 4-1, and this one’s about done.
Two final subs coming in the aftermath: Catarina Macario sprints on for Horan, and Casey Krueger comes on for Crystal Dunn, who had a far better night than she did against Sweden.
80′ GOAL! Make it four for the U.S. thanks to Press!
That goal by New Zealand was well earned but a bit of a dumpster fire for the United States defense.
Abby Dahlkemper tried to clear but instead sent a ball straight up into the air. When it fell, it was to a New Zealand player, and when Dahlkmeper compounded her mistake by tripping and falling, she was in alone against Naeher.
The scrambling defense bought a few seconds, but the ball eventually found its way to Betsy Bassett, and she slotted home a shot. It won’t be one for the highlight reels, but New Zealand will take it.
Julie Foudy, a former U.S.W.N.T. player and one of tonight’s announcers, says that loss against Sweden was a “gift for the United States,” adding: “I always think those punches, as much as they hurt, are important.”
74′ Here’s Morgan a few minutes after the other subs, and Lloyd is off.
72′ GOAL! New Zealand gets one back.
67′ Two subs for the United States: Sam Mewis, who was dropped from the lineup tonight, replaces Rose Lavelle, who scored the opener and then ran her thin little legs off all night.
Christen Press comes on at the same time, for Rapinoe, who had taken her usual spot tonight. No sign of Alex Morgan, but maybe that’s because no one has the guts to tell Carli Lloyd she’s coming out.
61′ The U.S. has…
Read More: U.S. vs. New Zealand Soccer: USWNT Wins, 6-1