Jeff CarlisleAmerican football reporter4 minutes to read
Auckland, New Zealand — USA Women’s National Team forward Sophia Smith stated her team’s 3-0 victory over Vietnam was a “good starting point” but that the Americans “have a lot to offer”, especially in terms of finishing chances.
Smith — one of six American players to make World Cup debuts on Saturday — was the hero, scoring twice in the first half and then assisting a Lindsey Horan spark with 13 minutes left in normal time.
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But the U.S. had to work hard for their victory over a well-organized and organized Vietnam, perhaps harder than expected given that the Americans blew Thailand 13-0 four years ago in the 2019 World Cup opener and that the Vietnamese suffered a friendly defeat to Spain 9-0 last week.
However, both Smith and manager Vlatko Andonovski were satisfied that the first victory in the tournament was behind them.
“I feel good. I think it was a good starting point for our team in this tournament,” said Smith. “I also know we have a lot to give, a lot to do, little things to work on.
“So I think it’s a good place to start. And personally, it was nice just to get a World Cup game under my belt, kind of see how it felt, I know what to expect. But yeah, I think it honestly makes me more excited for the next game.”
Andonovsky noted that this was the first time these eleven players had taken the field in a competitive game together, and given the chances the team created—the U.S. had an 18-0 advantage in this category—he was pleased with the performance.
“Seeing some of the connections and some of the combinations that they’ve been able to do has been very positive,” he said.
Among the new faces at the start was Julie Ertz, who slipped into the centre-back role alongside Naomi Girma.
Ertz was a mainstay in this setting during the 2015 World Cup, but on her way to the 2019 title she primarily played as a midfielder. However, when Becky Sauerbrunn went down with a foot injury that kept her off the US roster, Andonovsky approached Ertz about a move at the back.
“We had a conversation with Julie before we tried it out; we did a lot of work before we got into camp in terms of videos and analysis on both sides,” he said. “We were helping her, but she also wanted to get fit and acclimated as quickly as possible.
“And I think today it showed how good the backline can be in possession and out of possession. So I’m glad we made this decision and I know the backline will improve and move forward even better.”
All of which leaves Andonovski focused on how his team can be more efficient. The USA couldn’t even convert a penalty awarded late in the first half, with Alex Morgan’s effort being saved by Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh.
It was the first American penalty saved in a World Cup since Mia Hamm’s attempt against Norway in 2003.
“It wasn’t a good penalty for me, and I know that,” Morgan said. “But I’m happy that the team set up three goals away from home and that we’re moving on to the next goal.”
Andonovski feels a little fine-tuning is needed.
“I think if there’s one thing we have to do better, besides ending chances, is just how do we help players who are in a position to finish those chances, and give them a little bit better service,” Andonovsky said.
“So whether they are found on the right step, find the right right foot. So I would say service before the end and the end itself.”
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