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World Cup: Morgan scores 5 goals in USA’s thrashing of Thailand

World Cup: USA women off and running

United States’ Julie Ertz heads the ball away from Thailand’s Kanjana Sung-Ngoen during the Women’s World Cup Group F soccer match between the USA and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

By Anne M. Peterson

AP Sports Writer

REIMS, France (AP) — Alex Morgan tied a tournament record with five goals and the defending champion U.S. national team opened the Women’s World Cup with a historic 13-0 rout of Thailand on Tuesday night.

Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle each added a pair of goals for the United States, which broke the record for goals and margin of victory in a World Cup game. Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd also scored. The previous record margin was Germany’s 11-0 victory over Argentina in 2007.

Morgan tied Michelle Akers’ record for World Cup goals, set in the quarterfinals against Taiwan in 1991.

“We really just came into the game really wanting to showcase ourselves,” Morgan said. “Every goal matters in this tournament and that’s what we were working on.”

Asked repeatedly about the lopsided score, U.S. coach Jill Ellis wondered if a 10-0 victory in a men’s World Cup would elicit the same questions.

“Getting off on the right foot is important,” Ellis said. “But we also feel like we’ve got more to do. So were going to stay humble and go back to work.”

The two teams were the last to kickoff in the group stage for the monthlong tournament. Host France opened the World Cup before a sellout crowd in Paris on Friday night with a 4-0 victory over South Korea.

Ranked No. 1 in the world, the Americans had dropped only one match in their previous 38, a loss to France in Le Havre in January. The team is 7-1-2 overall this year, with six straight wins going into the World Cup and its seven different scorers against Thailand set a record for most in a Women’s World Cup game.

The last time the Americans played on the world’s biggest stage, Lloyd had a hat trick in the first 16 minutes and the United States beat Japan 5-2 in Canada for the trophy.

The U.S. pounced early against Thailand, too, on Morgan’s header in the 13th minute off Kelley O’Hara’s precisely placed cross. Mewis, Lavelle and Horan were all making their World Cup debuts.

“When you get a deluge of goals like that, it’s a good feeling. It builds confidence,” said Ellis.

Thailand, ranked No. 34 in the world, was clearly outmatched even though the team has shown progress on the world stage. Making its World Cup debut in 2015 four years ago, Thailand finished third in its group but earned its first win, a 3-2 victory over Ivory Coast.

At the final whistle, Lloyd and Christen Press were seen consoling the Thailand goalkeeper. Morgan put her arm around Thailand’s Miranda Nild, who was wiping away tears on the pitch. Nild and Morgan both played college soccer for the California Golden Bears.

“They were disappointed of course, they intended to make an impression in this first match and they were disappointed,” coach Nuengrutai Srathongvian said. “Yes they are athletes and they will be resilient.”

The World Cup comes at a time that female players across the globe are seeking better treatment and pay. The U.S. national team has long championed equal rights, and players collectively filed a lawsuit earlier this year that alleges discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation and are seeking pay equitable with that of the men’s national team.

The players say the lawsuit is on hold while they’re in France. But a pair of prominent well-wishers on Twitter referenced the team’s pursuit of equality.

“The @USWNT is something to smile about. It was great to celebrate with them back in 2015 and I’m excited to root them on in their drive to earn their fourth star. Best of luck to these champions for equality, on and off the field,” wrote Former President Barack Obama.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King weighed in: “The pursuit of a record 4th World Cup trophy for the #USWNT officially begins today, but the journey has been years in the making. You have the support of a nation behind you. Get that win, and then get the equal pay you deserve!”

Ellis made some lineup moves for the match in the absence of defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who the team said was held out as a precaution with a minor quad injury.

Julie Ertz was moved to the backline for Tuesday night’s game and Mewis got the start in the midfield.

Sauerbrunn, at her third World Cup, was a steadying force for the U.S. defense in Canada when the U.S. went 540 minutes without conceding a goal.

Morgan, U.S. Soccer’s 2018 Player of the Year has 106 international goals. Playing in her third World Cup, she was named player of the match.

The team’s biggest margin of victory was a 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic in a 2012 Olympic qualifier in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Up next for the United States is World Cup newcomer Chile on Sunday in Paris. In the final group match before the knockout round, the Americans will travel to Le Havre to face nemesis Sweden, who they’ve been grouped with six times in World Cup play.

In the last meeting between the teams, Sweden ousted the United States in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics. Afterward, former U.S. goalkeeper Hole Solo called Sweden “cowards” for bunkering on defense. Alyssa Naeher has since replaced Solo, who was dismissed from the team.

Sweden defeated Chile 2-0 earlier on Tuesday in Rennes, a match that featured a 40-minute weather delay.

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