United States 3-0 Vietnam: Sophia Smith runs the show for the USWNT

The United States looked to open their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign with three points against Vietnam, in a fixture steeped in history. With the Asian nation making their debut on the world stage, would they be able to go toe-to-toe with the reigning World Champions, or would the USWNT kickstart their dreams of a historic three-peat?

USA: Naeher; Dunn, Ertz, Girma, Fox; Horan, DeMelo; Rodman, Sullivan, Smith; Morgan

VIE: TT Kim Thanh; H Thi Loan, T Thi Thu, LT Thu Thuong, TT Thu Thao; NT Tuyet Dung, T Thi Thao, NT Bich Thuy; TT Hai Linh; Huynh Nhu

While many may have predicted the United States to storm to a rather dominant victory over their Southeast Asian opponents, Vietnam were able to defend resolutely throughout the opening exchanges.

But as expected, Vietnam succumbed to the pressure eventually, with Sophia Smith bagging the USWNT’s opening goal of the tournament after a defence-splitting pass from Horan picked out Morgan – who unselfishly played in the young winger.

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A golden chance fell to Alex Morgan with the striker seemingly destined to double the USA’s advantage – but her effort flashed across the face of goal, much to the relief of the Vietnamese ‘keeper.

In a fierce group, the United States may come back to rue their missed opportunities as Horan sent a strike wide of the near post, with the Viet defence seemingly sharp enough to force consistent errors in this world-class American side. They weren’t impenetrable though, seemingly relying on sheer luck to deny Ertz’s header from close range.

With five minutes left before the break, the Vietnamese resistance showed signs of finally crumbling. Hoang Thi Loan appeared to catch Rodman as she darted into the box, with the Moroccan referee backtracking on her original decision and awarding a penalty – but spectacularly, Morgan’s tame effort was denied by Tran Thi Kim Thanh.

Sophia Smith thought she’d doubled her personal tally, and extended her side’s margin, in stoppage time – but Alex Morgan was judged to have interfered with play while in an offside position. With VAR in operation though, a lengthy review found that a trailing Vietnamese boot kept Morgan onside, meaning the goal would stand after all.

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Smith came close to completing a stunning hat trick just seconds into the second half, finding herself played through on goal – but her rushed strike was skewed waywards of the target. Horan would rue her misplaced effort too, as her side-footed volley flew wide of the post.

When presented with arguably the best chance of the match, Fox skied a great effort from close range after Rapinoe’s pinpoint cross into the box – with Vietnam grateful for every squandered effort as goal difference could well be a deciding factor in this tough group.

While Vietnam’s resolute defence was the cause of the United States’ frustration in the first half, Vlatko Andonovksi’s side were to blame for their misfortunes in the second period. Faced with an open goal, Megan Rapinoe failed to convert, blasting her shot over the woodwork to ensure the scoreline remained 2-0.

With little under fifteen minutes remaining, the USWNT added their third of the match. Lindsey Horan, donning the captain’s armband throughout the tournament in Becky Sauerbrunn’s absence, fired home a comfortable effort following Smith’s cutback pass inside the area – extending the United States’ lead, and crucially building their goal difference.

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Rose Lavelle will feel begrudged that her stunning strike from distance was only able to rattle the underside of the crossbar, though momentary confusion ensued as the Moroccan referee appeared to indicate that the ball had crossed the line. It had in fact failed to do so, and play restarted with a Vietnamese goal kick.

Nine additional minutes failed to prove fruitious for the United States, who will surely hold mixed feelings following a 3-0 victory over Vietnam. While three points on the board will surely send them on their way to the knockout rounds, there will be concerns regarding a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal that will need to be rectified ahead of their second group stage game.

Group E action resumes at 08:30am on Sunday, 23 July as the Netherlands face Portugal. The Unites States and Vietnam will both return to the pitch on Thursday, 27 July – with the USWNT facing the Netherlands, and Vietnam testing their luck against Portugal.