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USWNT wakes up in second half to defeat New Zealand 4-0

Rose Lavelle starts for the USWNT in the first of two friendlies against New Zealand on Jan. 17. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The USWNT started the new year off with a delayed bang, defeating New Zealand 4-0 in a second-half rout on Wednesday afternoon local time in Wellington, New Zealand.

Mallory Swanson scored a brace, and Alex Morgan and Lynn Williams each added a tally, with all goals coming in the second half of the match. This was the USWNT’s first time opening a World Cup year with a win since 1999.

It took the reigning World Champions over 45 minutes to find the back of the net, as bumpy terrain and a well-organized New Zealand defense stifled the U.S. attack in the first half.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski made a few interesting lineup choices, starting Taylor Kornieck in the defensive midfield, Emily Fox at right back and Crystal Dunn at left back. Lindsey Horan had two good scoring opportunities, one of which she couldn’t direct away from New Zealand keeper Erin Nayler, and another that was called offside after a Swanson free kick.

After the lackluster start, the U.S. made a few key subs at halftime, including bringing on Andi Sullivan in the defensive midfield and Trinity Rodman in the attack. From there, the USWNT looked much sharper in distribution, and the goals followed.

Swanson opened the scoring in the 52nd minute, with a towering header off a cross into the box from Rodman.

Rose Lavelle then sent a tricky back-heel pass behind the backline to find Morgan, who finished from a wide angle in the 60th minute. Swanson doubled her tally off a quality ball from substitute Ashley Sanchez to put the U.S. up 3-0 in the 63rd. Williams, in her first game since February 2022 after recovering from a hamstring injury, came on in the 67th minute and scored a header seven minutes later off another assist from Rodman to seal the 4-0 win.

In the U.S, the match was the USWNT’s first on HBO Max. It also was broadcast in Spanish as part of U.S. Soccer’s new deal with Telemundo and Peacock. The game marked HBO Max’s first live soccer presentation in the streaming service’s existence.