Megan Rapinoe was good for two goals against Australia.

The sad realities of working in an office meant that I had to miss the Nigeria-Sweden game, which looked like a real barn-burner. Fortunately, I was on hand to see USA dispatch Australia 3-1 in their opening match, and I’ve managed to see a bunch of other teams so far in this Women’s World Cup. Here are the questions and answers to what has happened so far:

After the U.S. game, an anonymous soccer blogger for Australia’s soccer federation said that Australia was the better team and that USA won only due to luck. Is he or she right?
There are actually times in soccer when the better team loses a game. Australia-USA was not one of those times. Yes, the Matildas outplayed USA badly in the first half hour and could count themselves unlucky not to go into halftime up 2-0 or 3-0 instead of tied 1-1. However, Hope Solo made two spectacular saves, one from Emily van Egmond (who had a tremendous game in central midfield) when she shot from distance, another from Samantha Kerr’s first-time volley. When soccer teams put in a good shift and come up short like Australia did, they seem more prone to saying “we were actually better” than football teams or basketball teams. For all I can tell, they mean it, too. Still, the goalkeeper is part of the opposing team. If you put more shots on goal than the other team but the keeper stops them all, it’s undeniably frustrating, but that’s the way the game goes. USA took control in the second half and turned their possession into goals while the Matildas faded. They deserved the win.

Speaking of Solo, did you read the appalling Outside the Lines report on that domestic violence incident from last year? What the hell?
The more I find out about our keeper, the less I like. She can’t stop drinking. She seems to alienate everyone who cares about her. She reads Ayn Rand. And yes, she had a violent childhood, and her much-larger nephew got violent with her during the aforementioned incident. Nevertheless, trouble seems to follow her around, and the “Do you know who I am?” routine that she pulled with the cops responding to the situation was inexcusable. It’s uncomfortable to realize that we may well have the most hateable player in the entire tournament. Fortunately for USA, Solo is one of those athletes who seems to feed off the negative energy as much as she generates it. The more people hate her, the more she uses it as motivation, turning in great performances as a way of saying, “I’ll show you.” Clearly it’s working for her as a player. As a person, though, not so much. No wonder Fox color commentator and former Solo teammate and good friend Cat Whitehill said, “It’s sad that she’s such a great player.”


How did Fox cover the thing otherwise?
I’m going to borrow a word from George Orwell and call it “ungood.” Whitehill’s remark aside, the studio analysts seemed determined to sweep the incident under the rug. Two of said analysts (Leslie Osborne and Heather Mitts) are former teammates of Solo’s, but I’m confused as to why Eric Wynalda jumped in to say it didn’t matter. Of course, they’re all Americans, and not many in women’s soccer history haven’t had contact with Solo. At times like this, the studio show needs to turn to its analysts who played for other countries (Monica Gonzalez, Kelly Smith, and Ariane Hingst) who presumably have neither an axe to grind nor a rooting interest in Solo. Elsewhere, the match’s play-by-play commentator JP Dellacamera is a holdover from the bad old days of ESPN’s soccer coverage, when that network indulged in shameless homerism covering World Cup 2002 and Women’s World Cup 2003. He hasn’t dropped his act. Fox is going to cover the next men’s World Cup, and they’d better hire Ian Darke as soon as his contract is up.

Didn’t USA have other players in the game?
Megan Rapinoe scored two goals, and you can call the first one lucky, but that shot doesn’t deflect off the defender if she doesn’t shoot the ball in the first place. As in hockey, sometimes good things happen when you just blindly fire the ball at the net. In other news, the left-back spot was a problem for USA in 2011, but Meghan Klingenberg provided plenty of attacking impetus from that position this time out. (Meanwhile, the defensive lapses came from veteran right-back Ali Krieger.) Sydney Leroux didn’t get enough of the ball, but she still served up a nice assist on Christen Press’ goal. Coming back from the bone bruise she suffered in April, Alex Morgan did not seem gimpy in her 15 minutes as a sub, and fired a speculative shot wide from way out. We’ll monitor the situation.

Abby Wambach seemed off, didn’t she?
The Wambach of old would have buried that header that she put wide in the 29th minute. I can’t help but wonder what it would look like to have USA running out a forward line using three of Morgan, Leroux, Press, and Amy Rodriguez, with Wambach available off the bench. The speed of that attack would make defenses shudder. The trouble with a front three, though, is that it would force Rapinoe at the very least into the middle, where she’d be less effective.

Well, you could run a 3-4-3 alignment, with Rapinoe and someone else (Press? Tobin Heath? Kelley O’Hara?) operating as wingbacks.
Yeah, but USA has no experience playing that way. Anyway, a solution like that would force Klingenberg onto the bench or out of position into central defense. My head is starting to hurt.

What other teams overwhelmed you?
Well, it would have to be Germany, wouldn’t it? Their 10-0 win over Ivory Coast was enough to make you think, “Dear Lord, this is scary.” True, the Ivorians defended suicidally, but still, 10 goals in a World Cup game is what it is. The Germans also scored them all themselves — in their 11-0 drubbing of Argentina in World Cup 2007, they were credited with two scores that should have gone down as own-goals by Argentina’s keeper. Less overwhelming, but still impressive were the Dutch, who outclassed New Zealand in a 1-0 win, with Lieke Martens scoring a fantastic belter from distance.

Who has underwhelmed you?
Canada. They won their opening game against China, but they looked short of offensive ideas, gifted the Chinese some chances with mistakes in the back, and needed a last-gasp penalty to secure all three points. If I were Canadian, I’d feel anxious every time the team’s defenders tried to pass the ball under pressure. Then again, soccer history is full of teams that started off tournaments wobbly and then wound up winning the whole thing, so both Canada and USA can take heart from that.

What’s next for USA?
From the highlights, both Nigeria and Sweden look dangerous in attack and vulnerable in defense. Their draw has allowed USA to grab an early hold of this Group of Death, but there will be plenty to study before the next game on Friday.