Twelve minutes later, Ellis pulled out Julie Ertz — who had been moved to central defense in place of Becky Sauerbrunn, who was held out of the match with a minor quadriceps injury — and sent out Pugh, yet another forward.
The game was already won long before any of the substitutions, of course. But Ellis saw an opportunity to get more of her attacking players into top form for the long tournament ahead. Several of them were playing in their first World Cup game, and she was pleased to see them thrive.
“As a coach, I don’t find it my job to harness my players and rein them in, because this is what they’ve dreamed about, and this is a world championship,” said Ellis, who wondered aloud whether the coach of a men’s team would have faced as many questions about sportsmanship as she did. “When you have a deluge of goals like that, it’s important. It’s a good feeling. It’s a boost of confidence.”
Indeed, the game seemed more like an exercise in team-building than a competitive contest. The statistics were cartoonish. The United States had 39 attempts on goal — again, 39 — to Thailand’s 2. And the Americans, who are defending their 2015 title, possessed the ball for 75 percent of the match, completing 663 passes, compared with Thailand’s 209.
Thailand’s coach, Nuengruethai Sathongwien, had characterized the mere presence of her team at the World Cup as a success. In that way, the Thai squad on the field embodied the talent gap that still exists among the national teams at this tournament.
After the game, Sathongwien seemed unperturbed by the United States’ gaudy scoring display, saying her team had simply not been good enough to keep the match close. But she had a message for the Americans, like Lloyd, who had taken the time to console and encourage her players, many of whom were in tears, after the final whistle.