WINNIPEG, Manitoba - It was far from a perfect performance, but the United States did what it had to do earn three points in its Womenas World Cup opener Monday night.
Buoyed by two goals from midfielder Megan Rapinoe and a superlative performance by goalkeeper Hope Solo, the Americans secured a hard-fought 3-1 Group D victory over Australia.
The win propelled the USA atop its group with three points after Nigeria and Sweden battled to a wild and dramatic 3-3 deadlock in the first game of the doubleheader.
Rapinoe put her stamp on the game with a stellar performance on the left wing. She was involved in all three American goals, scoring twice and helping to set up the game-winner in the 61st minute.
"A little bit shaky,a Rapinoe said of the Americansa start to the game. aI donat think we played that well today. We can be better on possession."
She thought the second half was better. aI think we settled in a bit more,a she said.
The crowd was pro-American, but the U.S. endured an uneven start and was fortunate to walk into the locker room with a 1-1 halftime tie.
The Australians came out forcing the action, coming within inches of taking the lead. Emily Van Egmond powered a close-range shot in the fifth minute that Solo got her fingertips on, and the ball banged off the crossbar.
A rather uncharacteristic goal gave the Americans a 12th-minute lead. Center back Julie Johnston booted a long ball down the field that Abby Wambach flicked to Rapinoe atop the penalty area. The left-footed Rapinoe turned around Van Egmond with a move, then launched a right-footed shot that deflected off defender Laura Alleway and past flatfooted goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri into the lower left corner.
Moments later, the Aussies came close to equalizing, but Solo was there. She denied Samantha Kerr, who broke through the defense and fired a volley that Solo punched away.
Australia finally solved Solo in the 27th minute as it took advantage of some sloppy defending. Lisa De Vanna was wide open and took a short pass from Michelle Heyman, smashing a shot from the right side into the lower right corner for a 1-1 tie.
Rapinoe, easily the USAas most dangerous player, placed a spot-on 28-yard free kick that a diving Wambach headed wide right in the 39th minute. Christen Press sent a shot straight to Barbieri barely a minute later.
Five minutes into the second half, a through ball allowed Kerr to find some room on the left side before Becky Sauerbrunn deflected her shot out of bounds.
Solo started the sequence for the USAas second goal in the 61st minute with a long, booming free kick to the left side. Rapinoe brought it down and fed the streaking Sydney Leroux on the left wing. Leroux sent a sliding pass to the open Press, who drilled a 12-yard shot into the lower right corner for a 2-1 lead.
Solo continued her outstanding play with another point-blank stop, denying Van Egmond in the 70th minute.
"A couple of fantastic saves and they win you matches, don't they?" Australian coach Alen Stajcic said.
Rapinoe scored her second goal after taking a pass from Carli Lloyd and motoring down the left side and into the box, where she struck a solid shot inside the far post for a 3-1 American lead in the 78th minute.
"Yeah, I was doing my best Messi impression," Rapinoe said of her run.
After the goal, Alex Morgan, who hadnat played since April 11 because of a bruised left knee, was substituted for Leroux.