The U.S. women’s soccer team is on a quest for Olympic redemption after its stunning elimination in the quarterfinals at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
The team took the first step toward making that happen on Tuesday, beating Haiti in the opening match of the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament 4-0 in Houston.
The two-time reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup champions have never lost in Olympic qualifying and are heavy favorites to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The Americans are in Group A along with Haiti, Panama and Costa Rica. The top two teams after a round robin will move on to the semifinals on Feb. 7 outside Los Angeles, and the winners of each semifinal earn Olympic berths.
The U.S. jumped to an early lead against Haiti, with Christen Press chipping in a shot from the left side after a long pass from the right corner to score the first goal of the year for the squad just 78 seconds into the match.
The score remained 1-0 at halftime, but in the 67th minute Lynn Williams — one of the two players on the U.S. roster who did not take part in last year’s World Cup — headed in the ball on a set piece, assisted by Megan Rapinoe. The FIFA women’s player of the year got a second assist on a goal by Lindsey Horan, moments after she’d subbed in, to make it 3-0 in the 73rd minute.
Veteran forward Carli Lloyd, who scored the game-winners in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold-medal games, closed out the scoring in the 94th minute.
Eighteen of the 20 players on the U.S. roster Tuesday were part of the World Cup team, the biggest exception being Alex Morgan, who is out due to pregnancy. Captaining the team for the night was Lloyd, setting a new U.S. women’s record for Olympic qualifying appearances with 15.
The U.S. is back in action against Panama at 7:30 p.m. local time Friday.