The US Women’s National Team returned to form Saturday in a win against New Zealand in the group stage of the Tokyo Olympics. The top-ranked team avenged a tough 3-0 loss to No. 5 Sweden on Wednesday.
The USWNT made New Zealand pay for the loss, shelling them for a 6-1 win. The lopsided victory saw goals from Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Christen Press, and Alex Morgan. The Kiwis didn’t help their cause with two own goals, ESPN said.
Defender Crystal Dunn said the team played with more poised Saturday than they did in their loss to Sweden. And the team also seemed to settle into a rhythm, she said, knowing that they had to win to avoid elimination.
The team caught flak from some because they knelt before the game, a form of protest against racial injustice that began in 2016. Four other teams, including Sweden, took a knee before their first games to protest, as well, CNN said.
“I think we were a little bit more composed, a little bit more patient on the ball this game, and we know it’s going to be challenging chasing that gold medal,” she said. “So we’re not taking anything for granted.”
First Lady Jill Biden was able to catch the second half of the game, ESPN said. She was one of the only people in the stands. The Tokyo Olympics banned fans from attending because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Midfielder Lindsay Horan, who scored, was making her 100th appearance with the national team.
“I think we wanted to get the job done and my focus was doing whatever I possibly could to help the team win,” she said. “I’m happy to get a goal and yeah, it’s nice to have a fan in the stands, too.”
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“It’s frustrating, and it’s frustrating that it’s Sweden. They found a lot of space on us. I don’t even know how many goals we have given up this whole year,” she said, according to ESPN. “I don’t remember the last time we gave up a goal. So to give up three is not great.”
But Christian Press, who scored Saturday against New Zealand, said before the game the loss could be the spark the team needed.
“I think it was actually really good to have this match,” she told ESPN. “In 2008, we lost our first match and the team won gold. So I think now we’re seeing this as a learning opportunity. And the message is already ‘Heads up, put it behind us, next game.’ There’s no time in a tournament like this to dwell.”
The USWNT next game at the Tokyo Olympics is against the 1-1 Australian team on Tuesday. It will be the team’s final game of the group stage. And they must win to advance.