Morgan and Rapinoe Star as USA Blitz France After Early Wobble at Olympics

Will TideySenior Manager, GlobalJuly 25, 2012

There were two lessons to be taken from the USWNT's 4-2 win against France. Firstly, Team USA are vulnerable defensively. Secondly, that might not matter if they can shred teams in the manner they did France.

Pia Sundhage's team got their quest for a third successive Olympic gold off to the worst possible start. With the sun beating down on Glasgow's Hampden Park, they were burnt twice early on and briefly looked a disorganized team at odds with their billing as tournament favorites.

Gaetane Thiney's sweet shot put the French ahead, though the quality of the strike should not mask the fact Hope Solo was beaten too easily from distance. Soon after, Marie-Laure Delie doubled the France lead, benefiting from defensive malaise to steal her opportunity.

The USWNT came ready to put on a show, but "Party in the USA" this was not.

France qualified as World Cup semifinalists, so it was always expected they would provide Team USA with their sternest test in the group stage. But to lead 2-0 inside 15 minutes was surely beyond even their own wildest dreams.

For the U.S., it had the makings of a nightmare. And to make things worse, Shannon Boxx was soon leaving the field injured and unable to continue. The U.S. needed a boost, and they needed one quickly, because the French were in command.

Cometh the hour, cometh Abby Wambach.

The veteran striker—arguably the most potent aerial threat in the women's game—inexplicably found herself unmarked from a corner and duly headed home to pull one back on 19 minutes.

The goal changed the tone of the match instantly. Suddenly the U.S. were sweeping forward with purpose at every opportunity and starting to resemble the force that so emphatically destroyed the competition in qualification.

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, in particular, appeared to sense this was a game ripe for the taking. Morgan's movement on and off the ball was superb. She would end up with two deserved goals after a hugely convincing performance that confirmed many people's suspicion that she can be a defining player at this tournament.

Rapinoe was arguably even more impressive. The 27-year-old is most famous for providing the cross for Wambach's tying goal against Brazil at the World Cup, but on this evidence she'll be creating a new legacy at the Olympics. Fast, strong and direct, she was the USWNT's best player and provided two assists on the afternoon.

The majority of headlines will likely be owned by Morgan, however. The much-hyped 23-year-old they call "Baby Horse"—on account of the way she runs—got her tournament off to a stampeding start and built on her burgeoning reputation with a hugely convincing debut at the Olympics.

The success of Morgan's partnership with Wambach was particularly heartening for the U.S. The pair combined in the most simple fashion imaginable for the equalizing goal, with Wambach heading into Morgan's path and the more nimble of the two doing the legwork to find space and swivel to shoot home.

Ultimately, Wambach will pass the flame to Morgan, just as Mia Hamm did to her. But for now, the two can play in unison and form arguably the most potent strike force in the women's game.

It was certainly too hot for France, who, after taking the initiative, were battered into submission by a U.S. team that packs punches all over the field and could easily have won by a bigger margin.

Perhaps the U.S. going 2-0 down early was exactly what they needed to spark their Olympic quest into life. Not only did it serve to warn Sundhage of her team's defensive frailties before it's too late, but it also allowed her attacking players to hit their stride early.

On this evidence, there could very well be a Party in the USA come the gold-medal match.