Christen Press and the United States Women’s National Team came through in a must-win match Saturday at the 2020 Summer Games, thrashing New Zealand 6-1 to move to 1-1 at the soccer tournament.
Press picked up a goal and two assists in the dominant performance. Center midfielder Julie Ertz also assisted two scores. The U.S. women now have a 1-1 record in the tournament.
The victory followed the team’s first loss since 2019, a 3-0 shutout by Sweden on Wednesday in Tokyo. That setback snapped U.S. 44-game unbeaten streak.
“It wasn’t our best performance in Game 1, and we came into game two knowing that we don’t go from being a really great team two days ago to not being a great team anymore,” team member Crystal Dunn told the media.
“We just came in a little bit more relaxed and trusting each other knowing that we’re here and we can get the job done.”
Coach Vlatko Andonovski added, “We came here, did the job we had to do tonight. The next thing is Game 3 and all our focus goes to that. Every next game that is ahead of us is the most important game.”
First lady Jill Biden attended Saturday in Saitama, Japan, to watch the U.S. women.
Right wing Rose Lavelle started the scoring in the ninth minute.
Forward Tobin Heath fed Lavelle for the first score. Heath sent a through ball around the New Zealand defense. Lavelle caught up to the pass and slipped a shot past New Zealand keeper Anna Leat from a very narrow angle.
The Americans stayed aggressive, but could not manage to score, with four goals disallowed in the first half due to offside calls.
“It’s unfortunate,” Carli Lloyd said. “We could have scored more.”
They finally broke through when Ertz found left wing Lindsey Horan in the 45th minute.
Ertz headed a ball back toward the middle of the box from the far post. The pass found Horan, who used her head to knock in a shot from point-blank range.
Horan and Lloyd united on another American attack in the 63rd minute. Lloyd headed a Horan feed toward the far post on that play. New Zealand defender Abby Erceg attempted to block the shot, but headed the ball into her own net to give the U.S. women a 3-0 lead.
New Zealand finally got on the scoreboard in the 72nd minute.
Paige Satchell connected with midfielder Betsy Hassett for that goal. Satchell found herself alone in the box to spark that play. She fired a pass from the right side toward the center of the box to find Hassett, who finished the sequence with a right-footed blast into the right side of the net.
Ertz set up the Americans’ fourth score in the 80th minute. The center midfielder dribbled down the right flank and sent a pass to Press.
The star forward brought the ball down with her left thigh and used her second touch to bury a right-footed shot past Leat.
Press picked up her second assist about eight minutes later. She received a long ball on the left flank at the start of that play. She took a touch into the box and fired a pass to the right side, where she found substitute Alex Morgan.
Morgan blasted a shot into the left side of the net to give the Americans a 5-1 lead in the 88th minute.
Right back C.J. Bott failed to make a clearance and kicked the ball into the New Zealand net for an own goal for the final score in stoppage time.
“We need to have that switch turned on all the time,” Lloyd told reporters. “We need to be ruthless. It’s really important that whoever’s on the field, we’ve got to just keep your foot on the pedal and go for as long as you can.
“Ruthless mentality, grit and hard fight. That should be a standard thing that you’re doing every game.”
The U.S. women sit in second place in Group G. Australia also is 1-1, but trails the Americans in goals for and goal differential. Sweden tops Group G.
Each of the four Group G teams matches up in a single game as a part of the round-robin format in the first round. The two top teams from Group G will automatically advance to the knockout round. The top two third-place teams in the tournament also advance.
The first qualifier for the next round is the best record through three games of group play. If teams log the same record, their goal differential and goals scored could be used to determine who moves on.
A re-airing of the U.S. women’s game against New Zealand is at 5:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on USA.
The Americans will face Australia in their final group stage game at 4 a.m. EDT Tuesday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium in Kashima, Japan. That game also will air on USA.