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New Zealand trip gave USWNT ‘test run’ for 2023 World Cup

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 21: Taylor Kornieck #20 of the United States scores her goal and celebrates during a game between New Zealand and USWNT at Eden Park on January 21, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

It was a successful business trip down under for the U.S. women’s national team, which won its two games against New Zealand by a combined score of 9-0.

For the players, it offered the opportunity to get a feel for the country before the World Cup in six months.

“It was incredible for us to be out here just to get acquainted with the country and to be able to visualize us being here six months from now,” said defender Crystal Dunn. “[We] were welcomed with some incredible people and it’s a great country. For us to be here was an absolutely amazing trip.”

Making a start on Friday, Sofia Huerta found the games good to get into a groove after some months off.

“This is a really good opportunity for us to come, see the lay of the land playing both the venues that we’ll be playing in the World Cup and obviously facing the Ferns,” she said. “It was two good games, just to get out of the way, some cobwebs. We’re still in the off-season, so getting ready for the year.”

Rose Lavelle, who had a brace in the win after dropping into the eight position for the first time, called the atmosphere “fun.”

“This was an amazing test run for us to be able to see what to expect when we come back in six months,” she said. “Being able to face an away crowd and have to see how we handled that. It was a really good test run for us and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

As far as takeaways from the trip, Lavelle looked at the differences in the starts between the team’s first game and their second.

“One of the biggest things is start out strong,” she said. “We had a slow start [in game one]. So I think when we come out strong, when we play like that, it’s gonna be harder to keep up.

“When I think of what we did in 2019, a lot of it was we had a really strong start and we would score really early. So I definitely think that’ll be an emphasis for us.”