By Arnie Leshin
It was as simple as lining up for a lucky 13 apple pies and leaving nothing for the team not dressed in red, white and blue.
For the favored defending champion United Stateswomen, they opened World Cup play in Reims, France, Tuesday with a star-spangled banner performance in Group F, overwhelming Thailand, 13-0, in a tournament record for both margin of victory and goals scored.
Too bad they don’t apply the mercy rule in this event because badly outplayed Thailand would have had at least something to celebrate. Outshot 39-2, it didn’t take much time for the assault on Thailand goalkeeper Sukanya Chor Charoenying to begin.
The match was less than 10 minutes in when Alex Morgan thought she had started the barrage, but an offside cancelled it. Not long after, she scored her first of a record-tying 5 goals on a breakaway kick. That was the first, a dozen more to go. Soon after, Rose Lavelle’s header off a corner kick made it 2-0.
Teamwork, stellar movement of the ball, and having fun, kept it going. Lindsay Horan booted one in from the left side of the goal, and Morgan got in the way of a Thailand possession and sent the ball to Samantha Mawos, who kicked it past the goalie. Morgan followed with her second goal, as did Lavelle, and Julie Ortiz’ goal as the half ended and sent down and out Thailand to its locker room in dismay.
The second half didn’t change. The United States didn’t waste time in sending four quick shots past Chor Charoenying, and after the last one shefell to her knees and shuck her head, but she also could have pinned some blame on her faulty defense that couldn’t keep up with the high-powered, fleet Americans.
At this point, Morgan had back-to-back goals, veteran Megan Rapinoe scored one, and Mallory Pugh made it 11-0 as head coach Jill Ellis continued to sent in substitutes. Morgan’s fifth goal made it an even dozen and record-holder Carli Lloyd closed it out to make it 13-0.
At the final whistle, Lloyd and teammate Christian Press were seen consoling Chor Charoenying. Morgan put arm around an opponent who was wiping away tears on the pitch moments after the match ended.
Thailand had been showing progress on the world stage and was ranked No. 34 in the world. Making its World Cup debut in 2015, it finished third in its group, but earned its first win by turning back Ivory Coast, 3-2.
The next stop for the USA is against Chile, and then comes the group final against Sweden before the knockout rounds begin. It was Sweden that defeated the USA in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics played in Brazil, something for Ellis’ girls to remember.
USA is now 6-0-2 in World Cup openers. Also on Tuesday, Sweden blanked Chile, 2-0, and the Netherlands shut down New Zealand, 1-0. There are 24 teams in women soccer’s biggest event that continues until July 7. Of course the USA team would have preferred the Fourth of July.