The United States Women’s National Team is off to Tokyo in fine form after a pair of dominant wins against Mexico this past weekend that were somehow even more one-sided than the aggregate 8-0 scoreline suggests. Every player on the USWNT’s 18-woman Olympic roster, save for Kristie Mewis (who assisted her sister’s opener in the first matchup), was part of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad, and this group hasn’t lost in 44 games, a run that includes 22 wins and one draw under Vlatko Andonovski. This is the sort of deeply experienced roster that knows exactly how to play together, and they styled on Mexico with a level of flair and relentlessness that you want to see from a group whose only real roadblock to redeeming their Rio Olympics disappointment could be complacency.
On Monday, the USWNT scored all four of their goals within 37 minutes, a flurry beginning with Lindsey Horan’s inch-perfect volley. There is no more satisfying kick to get right than a viciously redirected volley, a genre of shot that tends to produce disastrous misses more akin to wayward extra points rather than serious attempts on goal. When you hit one right, it feels like what I imagine chopping down a tree with one swing of an ax feels like. “I’ve been waiting for that volley all my life,” Horan said after the game.
However, the best goal that the USWNT scored in their tune-up was a goal that didn’t exist. Tobin Heath, making her first start since last November, was the star of a perfect team goal. The forward capped off a dizzying sequence of five first-time passes with a beautifully arched outside-boot pass onto Christen Press’s run, and Press delivered the finish. Even though Press was onside by several feet, referee Danielle Chesky quickly blew her whistle and called it back. Everyone was confused, the fans chanted “VAR! VAR! VAR!” and the final ruling was a disallowed goal for an inadvertent whistle. Chesky then missed a clear penalty minutes later when Heath got chopped down inside the box. Andonovski spoke about the goal like a successful capstone project, saying, “It was a perfect display of what we were trying to do, what we’ve been working towards, and how we want this team to look going forward.”
Everything is sliding into place ahead of the USWNT’s chase for a gold medal: The team is scoring outrageous goals at an startling clip, they’re overcoming whatever weirdness is thrown their way by officials, and their male counterparts have long since farted their way out of qualification. Maybe their toughest opponent will be the U.S. Soccer bureaucracy itself.