CARY, N.C. (AP) - The United States took its first step toward the World Cup in emphatic fashion.
Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan scored two goals apiece to lead the U.S. team past Mexico 6-0 on Thursday night in the group stage opener for both teams at the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament.
“I think we couldn’t have asked for a better performance,” Morgan said. “To keep a clean sheet and get a ton of goals and involve everyone, it was just a good overall performance for us.”
The U.S. team erupted for five goals in the second half to extend its unbeaten streak to 22 matches. Ranked No. 1 in the world, the United States dominated possession throughout and eventually wore down Mexico.
Lindsey Horan assisted on the first two goals for the U.S. team, which outshot Mexico 23-3. The United States got off to a quick start in each half, scoring on its first shot of the period in both instances.
“It’s a great start for us and a big confidence boost,” Rapinoe said.
Rapinoe, who also had an assist, opened the scoring with a goal in the third minute after Horan blocked a clearance attempt by Mexico’s defense.
But that’s all the United States managed on 11 shots in the first half. The U.S. team failed to convert a few other promising chances, including a shot from close range by Rapinoe in the 37th minute.
“We could have played a little faster in the first half, but I think we picked it up,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said.
Julie Ertz broke through in the 47th minute, starting a stretch in which the U.S. team scored four goals in less than 24 minutes. Morgan and Tobin Health scored on headers before Rapinoe got her second goal of the game.
“When we went into halftime up 1-0, we knew that there was more to give,” Morgan said. “So, going out in the second half and getting that second goal right away, that really set the tone.”
Mexico, ranked No. 24 in the world, was held without a shot until the 48th minute.
Mexico used five defenders to try to keep the U.S. attack at bay, but coach Roberto Medina lamented his team’s inability to keep the United States from finding open space.
“We’re here to defend our colors, and we’re going to go back to work to make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes,” he said.
The U.S. team improved to 33-1-1 in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The lone defeat was 2-1 to Mexico in 2010, the last time the United States gave up a goal in this event.
The United States is the reigning World Cup champion, having beaten Japan in the final in 2015. The team is in Group A for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, an eight-team tournament that decides the region’s three spots in the World Cup next year in France. A fourth team will earn the right to a playoff against Argentina for a spot.
The United States plays Panama on Sunday in the second of its three round-robin matches in Group A. Panama beat Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 in Thursday’s first game here.
The top two teams from Group A will advance to the CONCACAF semifinals in Frisco, Texas, with the top two finishers from Group B. Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba and Jamaica are playing in Group B in Edinburg, Texas.
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