Sophia Smith scored a first-half brace on her World Cup debut and the United States began its quest for a third straight title with a 3-0 win over Vietnam at Eden Park on Saturday.
The top-ranked Americans put their faith in the next generation this year and were rewarded with an outstanding performance from the 22-year-old forward, who also provided an assist for co-captain Lindsey Horan’s second-half goal. .
Vietnam barely broke through in the final third in its World Cup debut, but goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh headed to her right to save Alex Morgan’s first-half penalty in one of several good chances the United States squandered.
Smith scored his first in the 14th minute from a good pass by Morgan and fired his second from close range in stoppage time at the end of the first half, the shot initially missing caused offside but confirmed after a VAR review.
Horan, who took over as captain this year, made up for an earlier setback when he got on the scoresheet in the 77th minute after Smith cut the ball into the middle of the box after beating a defender on the right side.
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The strong American presence in the crowd of 41,107 roared with joy when Megan Rapinoe, who plans to retire at the end of this year, took the field midway through the second half, but the 38-year-old did not also score a good opportunity.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle was also disappointed when a shot in the 85th minute went over the crossbar and another chance went into the net in second-half stoppage time.
The United States will next face the Netherlands on Thursday in their second Group E match, a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final, while Vietnam next face Portugal.