The United States kicked off their 2015 Women's World Cup with a 3-1 win over Australia on Monday. The Americans struggled for much of the match, but turned it on late and rode two goals from Megan Rapinoe to all three points.
With three points in hand, the U.S. now stands all alone atop Group D. They lead Sweden and Australia by two points, while Australia are at the bottom with no points.
The U.S. played terrible in the early going, allowing Australia to dictate play. The Aussies looked like the better side and the Americans didn't look remotely likely to score, but then Megan Rapinoe and a bit of luck got involved.
The ball found Rapinoe in the middle, whose gorgeous touch and turn got her a bit of space and she let rip from 20 yards. The shot was going wide of the net, but it took a deflection and found into way into the back. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't deserved, but it counted.
Nothing changed after the U.S. goal. The Americans were unable to match the Aussies in the midfield and all it meant was the U.S. defense under pressure. Hope Solo was called upon to make several excellent saves and, thankfully for the U.S., she was up to the task. But she couldn't stop everything.
A beautiful series of passes saw the Australians set up Lisa De Vanna for a wide open shot in front. Undoubtedly helped by a U.S. defense that never came within arm's distance of an Australian attacker, the underdogs got the ball to their best striker a look and she buried it to equalize.
Even the Australia goal couldn't wake the U.S. up. The Aussies continued to be on the front foot and only Solo kept them level. Things got a little better in the final minutes of the first half, but the Americans were still fortunate to get to halftime level at 1-1.
Nobody would call the U.S. dominant in the second half, but it was better. The match evened out and they even put together a few good sequences through the middle. That paid off int he form of a gorgeous play down the left, with Sydney Leroux eventually cutting the ball back for Christen Press to bury in the back of the net.
From there, it was all about holding on, but it looked as if the Americans got substantially more comfortable. The defense looked more at ease, making several good plays, and the U.S. controlled possession better with some nice spells of knocking the ball around.
Finally, the U.S. caught Australia out and took advantage with a quick break. Eventually, the ball got to Rapinoe, whose clinical finish wrapped up a 3-1 win and put the U.S. at the top of Group D after matchday 1.