Welcome to your live thread for tonight's Olympic match-up between the United States Women's National Team and New Zealand. This is the opening match of the Olympics for both sides, and the first step for the U.S. in defending the gold medal it captured in London four years ago. While the Olympics technically begin on Friday, we get to see some world-class soccer just a bit early.
The Yanks come into the match riding a 15-game unbeaten streak and will be the clear favorites to make it 16 straight tonight. The Orlando Pride's own Alex Morgan will surely get the start up top and should have plenty of chances created by the speedy wing play of 18-year-old Mallory Pugh and Washington Spirit star Crystal Dunn. While Pugh and Dunn are sure to provide service to Morgan tonight, don't be surprised to see both wingers tuck inside and try to impact the game by scoring themselves, as both Pugh and Dunn scored last time out against Costa Rica.
One player who the Kiwis will definitely have to keep an eye on will be superstar and captain Carli Lloyd. While the Houston Dash play-maker has dealt with some injuries over the past few months, Lloyd scored against Costa Rica last time out and is always a threat when on the field.
Defensively, it should be a pretty easy night for the back four of Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, and Kelley O'Hara with the latter possibly being passed over for Ali Krieger. And if it's an easy night for the back line, it will also be an easy night for keeper Hope Solo, who will be looking for clean sheet No. 102 in a U.S. jersey.
The Americans will not need to be reminded of the fact that getting off to a good start in the Olympics is of the utmost importance. Should the U.S. somehow draw, or even lose, the opening game, a very game France team awaits the Yanks in their second group stage game. Four years ago, France jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the U.S. before it got things back on track for a 4-2 victory. That being said, needing a win against France to regain top position in the group is not a spot the U.S. will want to be in.
The U.S. is looking for an unprecedented fourth straight gold medal at the Olympics and it starts tonight against New Zealand. This is a match U.S. fans won't want to miss.
How to Watch:
Match Time: 6 p.m. ET.
Venue: Mineirao Stadium -- Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
TV: NBCSN, NBC Universo.
Live Stream: NBCSports.com.
Twitter: For rapid reactions and live updates, follow @StarsStripesFC or @ussoccer_wnt.
Match Thread Rules:
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Enjoy the game. Go USA!