Megan Rapinoe shook her shoulders and danced until her teammates could join her to celebrate a goal that came way too easily and much sooner than expected.
At this point in her career, Rapinoe is a seasoned veteran and as much of a sure thing as the U.S. women’s soccer team has on its roster.
The forward scored a pair of goals to set the tone for the Americans as they cruised Thursday to a 6-0 win over Mexico in front of a crowd of 5,404 for the team’s opening match of the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship at Sahlen’s Stadium.
“Once the goals start falling in, it’s tough for teams to come back from that knowing that they’re not going to get many chances on the other end,” Rapinoe said.
Her first goal in the third minute ended any suspense about how the world’s top-ranked team would look in its first FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying match since winning the tournament in 2015.
The win also helped to answer some of the questions that followed the U.S. following its disappointing fifth-place finish at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. That marked the first time the U.S. failed to reach the semifinals in the Olympics or World Cup.
“We were so prepared that I don’t think going into it we a lot of questions in terms of what we could potentially deal with and how we could handle it,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “And then it becomes the execution, and in that regard, yeah, I think it was good for the players to get out there.”
If there was something for Rapinoe and Company to prove, it was taken care of as the Americans dominated Mexico from the opening minute.
The U.S. attempted 11 shots to none by Mexico in the first half, and things only got more lopsided from there.
Alex Morgan scored two of the Americans’ five goals in the second half, helping to extend the team’s streak of 22 matches without a loss. They’ll return at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday to face Panama in a match that could be just as one-sided.
The top three teams in Concacaf qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. The U.S. wraps up the group stage against Trinidad & Tobago next Wednesday in Cary. A win in the semifinals on Oct. 14 or the third-place game three days later, both in Frisco, Texas, would secure a berth in France.
The U.S. went up 2-0 on Thursday when Julie Ertz scored just after halftime. When Morgan scored her first goal — and the third for the U.S. — on a header in the 57th minute, she shook her shoulders and replicated Rapinoe’s celebratory dance from earlier in the night.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better performance to keep a clean sheet and get a ton of goals and involve everyone,” Morgan said. “It was a just a good overall performance with us and a good way to start the tournament.”
Four minutes later, Tobin Heath knocked a header into the back of the net on a play that looked nearly identical to Morgan’s goal. Rapinoe added her second goal in the 70th, and Morgan wrapped up the blowout with another goal 10 minutes later.
In the process, the U.S. again showed why it’s the favorite heading into the 2019 World Cup.
Even a pair of wins over Chile in late August and early September didn’t change much of what was being said about the Americans heading into the Concacaf Women’s Championship.
The talk continued to center around the U.S. seeking some redemption after stumbling at the Rio Games and recording its lowest finish ever in a major international tournament.
But it was business as usual for the Americans on Thursday night.
After Rapinoe scored her second goal on an easy tap-in, she didn’t bother to do any dance moves. She simply jogged away from the net without doing much celebrating at all.
“We’re really taking it one game at a time. We put a lot of effort into the preparation of the Mexico game,” Morgan said. “Obviously we know that winning the semifinal game is the ticket to the World Cup, so we’re just going to inch toward that and look to finish off our group games on a high note.”