MONTERREY, Mexico — There was never much question about whether the U.S. women’s national soccer team, standard-bearer for the game for more than three decades, would defeat Haiti on the opening night of the Concacaf W Championship.
That said, there is work to do over a fortnight here, and Monday night at Estadio Universitario, the four-time world champions passed their first light test with a 3-0 victory that was hardly persuasive.
Alex Morgan scored twice in a seven-minute span of the first half and substitute Margaret Purce added an 84th-minute goal, but No. 60 Haiti was far from overwhelmed. If not for a failed one-on-one and a missed penalty kick before intermission, the second half would have been compelling.
As it was, the Americans were neither rattled nor carefree in defeating Haiti for the eighth time by a 49-0 aggregate.
“It was not our best performance by any means,” captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “But this kind of tournament is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. So we just got to keep working our way through it.”
Needing one more victory to all but secure passage to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the United States will play Jamaica’s 51st-ranked Reggae Girlz on Thursday at Monterrey’s other tournament venue, Estadio BBVA.
In Monday’s second match, Jamaica surprised host Mexico, 1-0, on Khadija “Bunny” Shaw’s goal in the eighth minute. Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago are in Group B, which begins play Tuesday.
Two teams in each group will earn World Cup berths. The greater challenge for the United States is winning the tournament for the ninth time in 10 attempts, an aim that probably would require beating Canada, the reigning Olympic gold medalist. The tournament champion will receive a berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics, while the second- and third-place teams must clash in a two-leg playoff next year for a ticket to France.
Despite their lofty status, the Americans arrived with many players who have never played in consequential competition at the senior level.
“You can only get it from big tournaments like this and going outside of the country,” said Morgan, who turned 33 on Saturday. “So to have it here in Mexico is an important step, especially for the younger players to understand some pressure situations that they’ve never quite been in before.”
Morgan added: “This is going to help us a lot as we hopefully qualify and look toward the World Cup and Olympics. These are the tournaments that we’ll look back at that helped those players grow.”
Another experienced player, substitute Megan Rapinoe, rated her team’s performance “probably a 7 out of 10. Good goals, got a few chances, definitely need to just be sharper, more clinical, a little bit more ruthless.”
The underwhelming performance came against a Haitian lineup with eight players from non-powers in the French league and three from U.S. colleges: Georgetown goalkeeper Lara Larco; Virginia defender Claire Constant, The Post’s 2018 All-Met Player of the Year from T.C. Williams, now Alexandria City High; and Ruthny Mathurin of Louisiana Lafayette.
Haiti had three major threats in the first half. Kethna Louis’s header off a free kick flew fractionally wide of the far post. Melchie Dumornay burned Sauerbrunn only to have goalkeeper Casey Murphy block her clear shot. Then, after Emily Fox took down Nerilia Mondesir in the box, Roselord Borgella drove the penalty kick off the left post as Murphy dived the other way.
“It was actually good to see a side like that because I think it will prepare us for the future,” U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We’re going to have to do better because it’s not going to be easier against Jamaica.”
Morgan scored twice to increase her career total to 117 goals in 193 appearances.
Moments after hitting the crossbar with a header, she broke the deadlock with a clever touch in the 16th minute. Mallory Pugh crossed from the right wing. Morgan made a near-post run and, without looking at the target, left her feet at the edge of the six-yard box and used the outside of her right shoe to redirect the ball into the net.
In the 23rd, Kelley O’Hara delivered a high ball that Morgan headed with an arc over Larco from seven yards.
The second half was slow and predictable. The Americans weren’t able to flex their muscles, but Haiti wasn’t good enough to make a move. Andonovski made all five subs in the first 28 minutes of the half, in part to inject needed energy but mostly to rest starters and provide minutes to his deep bench.
Rapinoe set up Purce for an apparent goal, but video replay showed Rapinoe was offside on the buildup. Rapinoe supplied Purce again, but Larco thwarted the chance. Purce finally got her goal by settling the ball in the heart of the penalty area and slotting it into the left corner for her fourth goal in 16 U.S. appearances.
“For us to come out with three points and a shutout is huge,” midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “There are definitely a lot of things we want to improve on, but a solid start.”
Notes: Two players from D.C.-area high schools — Fox (Stone Bridge) and Sullivan (South County) — were in the starting lineup, and Purce (Good Counsel) entered at halftime. ...
FIFA announced two New Zealand cities, Auckland and Hamilton, will host a 10-nation playoff tournament in February to determine the final three World Cup teams. Participants will come from Asia (Thailand and Taiwan), Africa (two teams), Concacaf (two), South America (two), Europe (one) and Oceania (one). The third-place teams in Concacaf’s group play in Monterrey will advance to the playoffs.