RIO DE JANEIRO — The United States women’s national team may have started the transition to its next generation of stars, incorporating the likes of energetic 18-year-old Mallory Pugh into the squad. But on the first day of competition at the 2016 Summer Games, it was the same experienced veterans leading the USA to another Olympic victory.
The defending champion Americans began their pursuit of a fourth-straight gold medal on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over New Zealand at Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Carli Lloyd gave the U.S. an early lead, Alex Morgan padded it with a goal right after the break and Hope Solo earned the shutout — the 101st of her career.
It was no surprise that Lloyd scored the opening goal.
The reigning World Player of the Year recorded her 89th international goal in the ninth minute to give the Americans a 1-0 lead. Tobin Heath took advantage of the space given by two very generous New Zealand defenders to perfectly place a cross to the far post, where Lloyd easily out-jumped her marker to head the ball back across goal.
Lloyd, with the 17th Olympic goal of her career, also extended her Summer Games scoring streak to three.
The Americans carried that 1-0 advantage into halftime and needed only 35 seconds to add to it. New Zealand had not learned its lesson, failing to close down an oncoming Morgan Brian, who slid a perfect pass to the left for Morgan. Inside the box, Morgan placed her rolling left-footed strike inside the near post to make it 2-0 USA.
The win put the U.S. atop Group G with France and Colombia still to play in the nightcap of the doubleheader in Belo Horizonte. The top-ranked Americans next face the No. 3 French on Saturday in Belo Horizonte.