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USWNT Gives First Lady Jill Biden Crash Course In Offside Rule During Bounce-Back Win

The U.S. beat New Zealand 6-1, but it could’ve been 10 if not for offside goals being called back.

The USWNT bounced back, as basically everyone expected it to do, taking care of New Zealand 6-1 on Saturday in Saitama, Japan. After they were crushed by Sweden in the Olympic opener, the Americans needed a response, and this was a pretty good one. It was a fairly straightforward victory, though not necessarily the sort of performance that will scare the other medal favorites in Japan. 

One thing Team USA did accomplish was providing one of the few audience members a profound understanding of the intricacies of the offside rule. 

American first lady Jill Biden was a special guest at Saitama Stadium, one of the few non-participants allowed to watch the game in person. While Jill and her husband have a history of attending national team matches (men and women), it’s unclear how closely the first couple follows soccer. Fortunately, the USWNT gave Jill Biden — and any Americans tuning in for a 4:30 a.m. PT kickoff — a crash course in the offside rule.

The U.S. had four goals called back for offside in the first half, almost as if they were intentionally trying to provide examples of offside for new fans of the sport. They finally figured out how to stay onside in the second half, piling on four goals in the final 30 minutes to overturn a bit of the goal difference hole they dug in the 3-0 defeat to Sweden

USWNT vs New Zealand Highlights (2020 Olympics)

Rose Lavelle scored nine minutes in and it quickly became apparent the U.S. would not lose this game, even if New Zealand occasionally highlighted how porous this USWNT defense has been in Japan. 

What ensued in the remainder of the first half was a parade of goals called back by the offside flag. 

Carli Lloyd flicked the ball over the keeper for a lovely finish, but she had lazily strayed offside before the cross. Tobin Heath scored via a Crystal Dunn pass, but the left back made her run too early to get in behind the defense. Megan Rapinoe had a nice finish near the penalty spot, but everyone in the stadium knew the flag was soon to be raised. And finally, Lindsey Horan flew in at the back post to score with her head, only for the VAR to confirm a questionable offside call.

If ever there was a match to explain the offside rule, this was it. Hopefully Jill Biden had someone explain it to her if she wasn’t already aware of the rule. For those unfamiliar, here’s the offside rule:

A player is in an offside position if:

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent
  • The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered. For the purposes of determining offside, the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.

A player is not in an offside position if level with the:

  • second-last opponent or
  • last two opponents

Here, Lloyd strayed beyond the second-to-last New Zealand player before Emily Sonnett’s ball in, which is offside.

On this disallowed goal, the assistant referee and VAR thought Horan went beyond the second-to-last defender before being picked out at the back post by Lavelle. This one looked onside to us, so maybe it wasn’t the best example of the rule. 

After the spate of offside goals, the U.S. finally scored a second through Horan. Fortunately, you can’t be offside on a corner, so Julie Ertz headed the ball back to Horan to make it 2-0 just before halftime.

The second half went a bit better for the Americans, who realized they didn’t need to get in behind the Football Ferns defense to find space — there was plenty of it all over the pitch against a team that was unable to properly prepare for the Olympics because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Though she didn’t get on the score sheet on Saturday, Lloyd did trouble the New Zealand defense and created an own goal from NWSL veteran Abby Erceg. 

New Zealand got one back in the 72nd minute after an absolute nightmare from Abby Dahlkemper. The goal was the fourth allowed by the USWNT in Japan after having allowed four goals in Vlatko Andonovksi’s first 23 games in charge of the team, which has to worry U.S. fans.

Christen Press then delighted Biden with a lovely finish to kick off a closing period in which the U.S. piled on three late goals.

Alex Morgan came off the bench to make it 5-1 with a composed finish.

And finally Press created one more own goal to improve the USWNT’s goal difference heading into the Group G final against Australia, which is also sitting on three points after losing to Sweden 4-2 on Saturday.

Now that Biden has an intimate understanding of the offside rule, she can get ready for the USA-Australia match, which will kick off at 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday. 

USWNT vs New Zealand Highlights (Full Match)

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