Same story, different season in soccer

It’s still early, but another World Cup victory grows in likelihood for the U.S. Women’s National Team.



Alex Morgan of the United States celebrates with teammates after scoring her fifth goal in Tuesday's 13-0 win over Thailand in the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match in Reims, France. Volkswagen's new "Inspire'' spot features Morgan, a living embodiment of "Drive Bigger'' for how she uses her platform to look out for the next generation of players and give back to the community. [ALESSANDRA TARANTINO]

Pete Mills, Sports Reporter

In 2015, the U.S. Women’s National Team dominated during its run to winning the World Cup, the country’s first crowning as the world’s best since 1999.

With this year’s version of the event getting underway in France, the United States is well on its way to repeat. No country has repeated as champions since Germany in 2007.

The team dominated its first two matches in France this year, even drawing criticism for high goal differentials. The women took down Thailand, 13-0, on June 11 and went on to beat Chile, 3-0, on June 16.

Taking advantage of weaker opponents early was a defined strategy for the United States. Seeding following the beginning group stages is based largely on goal differential, and with more challenging matches ahead in the coming days, the U.S. has made it a clear goal to get the offense rolling early.

Familiar faces have taken a firm grip of the world stage yet again for the U.S. Alex Morgan — who was one of the team’s top producers en route to the World Cup win in 2015 — almost earned a double hat trick against Thailand, knocking in 5 goals. Other familiar faces include veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who have combined for 4 goals through the first two matches.

But it will only get harder from here. The June 20 match contains the first real test in Sweden. The two tied in 2015 in the early group stage; the Swedes were one of the only teams to hold back the Americans four years ago. While oddsmakers have the United States at the top of the heap in likelihood to take home the crown, Sweden is certainly in one of the top several squads poised to make a run at it.

While offensively the American team is among the best in the world, the defensive side has been impeccable thus far. Not only has the U.S. not relinquished a single goal yet, but it is far outpacing opponents in shots on goal. The team allowed only 1 shot on goal to Chile and only 2 shots on goal to Thailand. On the flip side, the Americans have fired a staggering 64 shots on goal in the two matches.

Making a big difference in the midfield has been a player with a well-recognized name for American football fans. Julie Ertz — married to Philadelphia Eagle tight end Zach Ertz — returned to the field to represent the country as one of the go-to midfielders in the tournament. With her help, the U.S. passing game has been clean; the team has completed its games so far with an average of 84 percent passing accuracy.

While its matches so far have been uncontested, winning a second World Cup is often more difficult than the first victory. The U.S. has a target on its back in 2019, but if it continues the dominance fans have seen so far, it’s hard to imagine a better team on the planet.

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