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Offside flags and own goals: The USWNT pick up their first win at this summer’s Olympics

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A 6-1 win against New Zealand puts the USWNT back on track to make the knock out stages in Tokyo

New Zealand v United States: Women’s Football - Olympics: Day 1 Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where four goals are called offside in one half but that was what happened in the first half of the game between the USWNT and New Zealand. Fortunately for the US, they also managed two score two legitimate goals in that half which gave them the platform needed to win the game. Own goals by Abby Erceg and CJ Botts, and goals from Christen Press and Alex Morgan in the second half made sure of the points, leaving the USWNT second in the group with a big game against Australia coming up to end the group.

New Zealand got a goal they thorough deserved through Betsy Hassett but as they tired, their attacking threat deteriorated and it allowed the US to pile it on.

FOOTBALL-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-NZL-USA Photo by AYAKA NAITO/AFP via Getty Images

Rose Lavelle, one of the best players on the pitch, got the first goal of the evening with a great run and finish off her right foot in the ninth minute of the game. Despite that goal, the USWNT seemed a little rash on and off the ball, which New Zealand tried to take advantage of. Olivia Chance in particular, seemed to have the beating of Emily Sonnett down the right and she looked to try and pick out Hannah Wilkinson as often as she could.

Following Lavelle’s opener though, the USWNT saw four, yes FOUR, goals chalked off because of the offside flag. Two for Lindsey Horan and two for Carli Lloyd. If the USWNT had just taken a beat before making their runs, they would’ve scored those goals as their passing sequences were good enough to open up the Ferns backline. That seemingly frantic energy that was causing the ruled out goals was also making it easier for New Zealand to launch some potentially dangerous counter attacks. Just before the US scored their second, Hannah Wilkinson was a whisker away from making it 1-1 when she drifted behind Abby Dahlkemper and aimed her header for the far post. Fortunately for Dahlkemper and the USWNT, Wilkinson was just off target.

In high level tournaments, you have to take your chances and when Wilkinson missed that one, you had a feeling it was only a matter of time before the USWNT made it more than 1-0. That second official goal of the game happened almost immediately after Wilkinson’s miss as the half time whistle approached. Julie Ertz, back in the starting line up, knocked the ball back after a corner that found Horan who bundled the ball home from close range.

New Zealand v United States: Women’s Football - Olympics: Day 1 Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The two goals gave the USWNT a platform to build off of and they did so with four more goals, helping their goal difference in the group as well. Abby Erceg was trying to stop a Lloyd header for going in at the far post in the 63rd minute but she proceeded to knock the ball into her own net instead. Hassett’s goal provided a small sliver of hope for the Ferns in the 72nd minute when Dahlkemper’s miscues led to New Zealand creating their best chance of the game, which they took, but it ended up not being enough to stop the incoming goal train from the USWNT.

A slew of substitutions from both sides saw the USWNT gain momentum while New Zealand tired and Christen Press scored her first goal of the tournament in the 80th minute after a deft touch and finish. Alex Morgan also got on the scoresheet in the 86th minute after Press’ cross found her at the back post and a final stoppage time own goal by Bott made the scoreline much more flattering for the USWNT.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by the US and there’ll be things that happened today that could become problematic against Australia but after what happened against Sweden, a 6-1 win may be just what they need to regain momentum in this tournament. There’s still a tough match against Australia to come but for now, Vlatko Andonovski and the USWNT will enjoy this somewhat return to form.