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+.

The first-ever VAR decision in the Concacaf W Championship was a controversial one, with the game’s referee overturning a red card against Haiti’s Roselord Borgella.

Borgella initially was called for a red after entering a tackle with a high boot, raking down USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara’s side. Upon VAR review, the call was downgraded to a yellow card to account for Borgella’s bent knee.

The move spurred discussion on social media, with reporters and fans questioning the call.

“Folks, I can’t believe that,” wrote Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer on Twitter. “Dragging the studs down the side, starting at the shoulder.”

Meaghen Johnson of TSN was also surprised by the downgrade, calling Borgella’s challenge a “reckless play.”

Claire Watkins of JWS added her voice to the chorus, Tweeting a link to a photo of O’Hara’s injuries.

Jason Anderson of Pro Soccer Wire wrote, “Intent not an issue at all here, this is a one billion percent red card.”

VAR continued to be a topic of conversation throughout Monday’s tournament opener. The match official upheld a no-call against Mallory Pugh after she was taken down inside the box and waived off a USWNT goal, calling Megan Rapinoe offside upon review.

Alex Morgan wasted no time in getting the U.S. women’s national soccer team on the scoreboard in the squad’s Concacaf W Championship opening victory Monday against Haiti.

The veteran forward connected with Mallory Pugh to score the USWNT’s opening goal. She made a darting run to the near post and flicked in a crafty finish to put the United States up 1-0 at the 16-minute mark.

Morgan added to her tally in the 23rd minute, nodding in a lofted ball from Kelley O’Hara to double the USWNT’s lead.

Morgan now has 21 goals in 21 qualifying appearances, making her one of the team’s top all-time scorers in such competition. She has 117 total international goals, which places her fourth in USWNT history.

Monday marks Morgan’s first multi-goal game with the USWNT since the squad’s 13-0 thumping over Thailand in the 2019 World Cup.

Margaret Purce added to the USWNT’s tally as well, scoring in the 84th minute. The score came moments after her initial try at goal was waived off, with VAR determining Megan Rapinoe was offside ahead of her would-be assist.

After collecting a loose clearance in the box, Purce fired a low shot to put the USWNT up 3-0 before the final whistle blew.

The USWNT’s qualifying quest continues when the squad takes on Jamaica at 7 p.m. ET Thursday on Paramount+.