Megan Rapinoe gives U.S. 3-1 victory over Australia in World Cup opener

Megan Rapinoe scores twice to give U.S. a 3-1 victory over Australia in their opening match of the World Cup

United States 3, Australia 1 (end of regulation)

After the U.S. team's final training session ahead of Monday's World Cup opener, Abby Wambach admitted she couldn't wait to get started.

"The World Cup is here," she said. "We waited for so long."

And she's already played in three of these tournaments. So imagine how excited Christen Press felt.

But Press was able to put the nerves and excitement aside long enough to score a huge second-half goal, snapping a tie and sending a shaky U.S. on to 3-1 win over Australia in the World Cup opener for both teams before a largely pro-U.S. crowd of 31,148 at Investors Group Field.

Megan Rapinoe had the other two American goals, one in each half. Alex Morgan, who hasn't played since early April because of a bone bruise to her left knee, came on late in the second half for Sydney Leroux.

For the first hour Monday, it looked as if the U.S. would get off to an embarrassing start in group play, where it has lost just once in six previous World Cups. However, Press, among the most consistent scoring threats for the U.S. in the run-up to the World Cup, changed that in the 61st with a one-timer from at 12 yards.

The play started with a goal kick from keeper Hope Solo -- who had an excellent game -- that found Rapinoe near midfield. Rapinoe sent the ball ahead to Leroux on the left flank, who dribbled to the edge of the penalty area before slipping a pass to Press in space.

And Press did the rest.

Seventeen minutes later Rapinoe put the finishing touches on the win. After collecting a pass from Carli Lloyd, she drove toward the penalty area before pulling up and shooting from the left edge of the 18-yard box. That shot hit nothing but the far side of the net to give the U.S. a two-goal cushion.

While the final score may look comfortable, though, the actual game was anything but, with a confident Australia challenging the U.S. at both ends.

With the Americans still trying to find their footing in the early minutes, Australia nearly stole an early lead when Emily Van Egmond latched onto a loose ball in the center of the 18-yard box and got off a blistering shot. But the ball went right at Solo, who used both hands to push it up and off the cross bar.

Seven minutes later Rapinoe gave the U.S. the lead.

Julie Johnston started that sequence by sending the ball ahead for Wambach, who then found Rapinoe well outside the penalty area. Rapinoe spun to elude Van Egmond and create space before sending a shot off the shin of Australian defender Laura Alleway and into the net.

Australia pulled back that goal in the 28th minute on a strong left-footed shot by Lisa De Vanna, the one player the American defenders said they feared most.

Michelle Heyman’s pass through the penalty area set up De Vanna, whose goal was her 34th in international play and sixth in a World Cup. Monday’s game also marked her 100th game with the Australian national team.

Wambach had two chances to give the U.S. back a lead before halftime. But a sliding attempt to deflect home a shot at the far missed while her soft header in the 42nd minute died in the arms of Australian keeper Melissa Barbieri.

It then fell to Solo to protect the first-half tie, grabbing a free kick from Servet Uzunlar that skipped toward the post in the final minute of first-half regulation time.

United States 3, Australia 1 (12 minutes left in second half)

Megan Rapinoe's pretty much puts the game away with her second goal of the night in the 78th minute. Her strong strike from the left side gives the U.S. a 3-1 lead.

And it looks as if Alex Morgan may come in soon, probably for Abby Wambach.

United States 2, Australia 1 (29 minutes left in second half)

Christian Press, among the most consistent scoring threats for the U.S. in the run-up to the World Cup, got her first World Cup goal in her first appearance in the tournament and it was a big one, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead in the 61st minute with a one-timer from about 12 yards.

The play started with a goal kick from Hope Solo, which found Megan Rapinoe near midfield. Rapinoe sent the ball ahead to Sydney Leroux on the left flank and after dribbling to the edge of the penalty area, a sliding Leroux found Press in space.

And Press did the rest.

United States 1, Australia 1 (end of first half)

The U.S. got its World Cup off to a shaky start Monday and was lucky to go into the locker room at halftime even with Australia at 1-1.

With the Americans still trying to find their footing in the early minutes, Australia nearly stole a goal when Australia's Emily Van Egmond latched onto a loose ball in the center of the 18-yard box and got off a blistering shot. But the ball went right at U.S. keeper Hope Solo, who used both hands to push the ball up and off the cross bar.

Seven minutes later, Megan Rapinoe gave the U.S. the lead.

Julie Johnston started the sequence by sending the ball ahead for Abby Wambach, who then found Rapinoe inside the penalty area. Rapinoe then spun and sent the ball toward the net where it deflected off Australian defender Laura Alleway and into the goal.

Australia pulled back that U.S. goal in the 28th minute on a strong left-footed shot by Lisa De Vanna, the one player the American defenders said they feared most.

Michelle Heyman's pass through the penalty area set up De Vanna, whose goal was her 34th in international play and sixth in a World Cup. Monday's game also marked her 100th game with the Australian national team.

Wambach had two chances to give the U.S. the lead again, but was unable to find the ball on a sliding attempt and her soft header in the 42nd minute died in the arms of Australian keeper Melissa Barbieri.

It then fell to Solo to protect the tie, grabbing a free kick from Servet Uzunlar that skipped toward the post in the final minute of first-half regulation time.

United States 1, Australia 1 (17 minutes left in first half)

Australia pulls back that U.S. goal in the 28th minute on a strong left-footed shot by Lisa De Vanna, the one player the American defenders said they feared most.

Michelle Heyman’s pass through the penalty area set up De Vanna, whose goal was in 34th in international play and sixth in a World Cup.

United States 1, Australia 0 (33 minutes left in first half)

The U.S. needed just 12 minutes to get on the scoreboard, with Megan Rapinoe spinning and getting off a right-footed shot that struck Australian defender Laura Alleway and landed in the back of the net.

Crisp passing from Julie Johnson and Abby Wambach -- who got an assist -- set up the score, which came just seven minutes after Hope Solo made a big save for the U.S.

Australia's Emily Van Egmond latched onto a loose ball in the center of the 18-yard box and got off a blistering shot but Solo stood her ground, using both hands to push the ball up and off the cross bar.

Pre-game

Abby Wambach has played in third World Cups already. But as she prepared to step on the field in Winnipeg for her fourth one Monday, she was anything but blasé.

"We are so excited," she said. "The World Cup is here. We waited for years. We waited for so long.

"This is going to be a spectacular event."

And it's one that Wambach may have a big part in. With Alex Morgan still nursing a bone bruise to her left knee, Wambach was not only in the lineup for the U.S.'s World Cup opener with Australia on Monday, she was wearing the captain's armband.

At 35, Wambach was expected to be a part-time player in Canada. But against Australia, she started up front next to Sydney Leroux, who is returning to her native Canada for his first World Cup.

In the midfield were Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press on the wings and Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd in the middle.

The defense was made up of Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnson and Meghan Klingenberg.

Hope Solo started in goal.

A sellout crowd of more than 30,000 -- the vast majority of them in the blue and white of the U.S. -- were on hand at Winnipeg Stadium.

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @KBaxter11

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