Three takeaways from the USWNT’s Concacaf win over Haiti

Alex Morgan scored twice against Haiti in the USWNT’s Concacaf W Championship opener. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national soccer team kicked off its Concacaf W Championship campaign with a 3-0 win over Haiti on Monday in Monterrey, Mexico.

World Cup and Olympic qualifying are on the line as the USWNT looks to reassert its dominance on the world stage. Just Women’s Sports has three takeaways from the opening victory:

Alex Morgan shines with brace

Alex Morgan has been on a tear for club and country, showing that her scoring hot streak isn’t exclusive to the NWSL in Monday’s USWNT win. The veteran forward got the start at the No. 9 position over Ashley Hatch and immediately made an impact on the game.

In the 16th minute, Morgan notched the team’s breakthrough goal in stylish fashion, flicking on a crafty touch at the near post to put the USWNT up 1-0. Then, in the 23rd minute, Morgan doubled her side’s lead with a perfectly-executed header, getting on the end of a well-placed cross from Kelley O’Hara.

Her brace marks Morgan’s first multi-goal game since the USWNT’s 13-0 thrashing over Thailand in the 2019 World Cup.

Morgan was the bright spot of a USWNT attack that, at times, looked stagnant and out of sync.

Defensive woes

The USWNT’s defense was tested by a Haiti side that was sharp on the counterattack. Holes were plentiful throughout the backline but particularly down the spine of the field, where plays appeared to break down between the center-back duo of Becky Sauerbrunn and Alana Cook and defensive midfielder Andi Sullivan.

The United States’ defensive unit has been in transition due to the absences of left outside back Crystal Dunn and defensive midfielder Julie Ertz, both out on maternity leave. Center back Abby Dahlkemper has also been sidelined due to injury.

Monday’s starting backline boasted a range of experience, with starting goalkeeper Casey Murphy holding just six national team caps, while Cook and starting left back Emily Fox have 11 and 15, respectively, compared to Sauerbrunn with 204 and O’Hara with 155.

“I don’t know if there was a miscommunication or anything between our center backs,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters following the match. “I would say it was the very good play of the attackers of the opposing team… world-class players, and you can’t give them a little space.”

VAR changes the game

VAR’s inaugural appearance in the Concacaf W Championship caused controversy, with three calls changing the face of Monday’s game.

The first-ever VAR decision surely was one for the history books, with the referee overturning a red card against Haiti’s Roselord Borgella. Going into a challenge with a high boot, Borgella raked Kelley O’Hara, leaving an apparent mark on her side. The initial red card call on the field was downgraded to a yellow upon review, causing uproar online.

The game official turned to VAR again in the 58th minute after Mallory Pugh was taken down inside the box, upholding the no-call on the field, seemingly because the USWNT forward was offside at the time of the foul.

VAR came into play for a final time when Megan Rapinoe was ruled offside in her assist to what would’ve been a Margaret Purce goal. Purce put the ball in the net for a good goal soon after to seal the 3-0 win.

The USWNT will continue its World Cup and Olympic qualifying quest Thursday when the squad takes on Jamaica at 7 p.m. ET on Paramount+.