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USWNT bounces back at SheBelieves Cup with assist from generous New Zealand own goals

The U.S. women's national team was looking for an attacking spark after Thursday night’s scoreless draw with Czech Republic and they found it on Sunday – with a major assist from New Zealand.

The USWNT took advantage of an unprecedented first-half hat-trick of own goals from Meikayla Moore – whose 50th international cap will be memorable for all the wrong reasons – as they cruised to a 5-0 victory in the second of three SheBelieves Cup matches.

The Football Ferns offered a far more disjointed defensive performance than the Czechs did and the USWNT took full advantage as Sophia Smith and Midge Purce caused particular chaos on the flanks.

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Vlatko Andonovski will be happy to see his side bounce back ahead of Wednesday’s tournament finale against Iceland, but he’ll still have plenty to dissect as he looks to clinch the SheBelieves Cup with a win.

Here are three observations from Sunday’s match at Dignity Health Sports Park

Moore’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad day

Before Sunday, the USWNT had never been the beneficiary of three own goals in a game in its entire history. Against New Zealand it happened within 38 minutes, and all of them were scored by the same player.


When Moore was removed in the 40th minute it could have been read as an act of mercy from New Zealand coach Jitka Klimkova, but it seemed a bit harsh to shine a brighter light on the defender’s errors when she could’ve been more quietly taken off at the break.

In her post-game press conference, Klimkova indicated she felt Moore wasn't up for the game mentally after her errors.

"A huge part in our game is mentality and if someone is ready to fight, then she's going to stay on the field," she said. "Well, Meikayla is a thinker."

Of course, no own-goal hat-trick happens in a vacuum and it must be said that Moore was blameless on the second, and all three were the result of U.S. attackers putting in extremely dangerous services. It wasn’t Moore’s fault that American attackers had a free run on the flanks for most of the half.

Ironically, Sunday should’ve been a day to recognize a major achievement for Moore, who already has a half-century of caps at age 25. But she’ll now have to simply take comfort in the fact that she is unlikely to ever have a tougher day in her career.

Hatch makes instant impact again

One minute. Four minutes. Six minutes.

That’s how long it’s taken Ashley Hatch to find the back of the net on her three most recent U.S. appearances.

The NWSL Golden Boot winner continued making her case for more minutes at the No.9 position by scoring a 51st-minute header against New Zealand after coming on as a halftime substitute.

Hatch was only making her fifth USWNT appearances but the 26-year-old appears to be putting it all together for club and country at the right time, with Andonovski seemingly open to a generational change at his team’s attacking positions.

Another NWSL star making her case is Sofia Huerta, whose first-half cross led to an own goal and whose second-half cross set up Hatch’s header.

Goalkeeping competition is fully on

On Sunday Alyssa Naeher made her first start for the USWNT since last summer’s Olympics, and the goalkeeper returned to a different situation than the one she left in Japan.

Casey Murphy had started the previous three U.S. games in goal and was hugely impressive, showing Naeher may have a fight on her hands to retain the starting role, particularly if she is unable to stay healthy.

Naeher was not tested much against New Zealand but was solid when called upon. How Andonovski manages his goalkeeping situation, with NWSL standout Aubrey Kingsbury also on his roster, will be a storyline worth monitoring.

In his post-game press conference, Andonovski hinted that Naeher is still his team's starter until proven otherwise.

"We have three super quality goalkeepers and just like in every other position, the goalkeeping position is a battle," the coach said.

"We know that Casey had a few good performances but we also know that it takes a little bit more than just two good games to be a quality international goalkeeper."