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What scoring 2 goals in a World Cup debut felt like to Rose Lavelle

Rose Lavelle’s World Cup debut came in a record-setting blowout in which she scored a brace ... and the 24-year-old still says she has work to do.

REIMS, France — About a year ago, Rose Lavelle was in protracted recovery from a hamstring injury. She was subbing into games, not getting consistent minutes, and fans held their collective breaths every time she looked mildly uncomfortable on the pitch.

Fast forward, and she was in the starting XI at the World Cup, a staple of the midfield trio in the 4-3-3 currently favored by head coach Jill Ellis. Tuesday’s opener against Thailand was as good a game as any to introduce a World Cup rookie to the tournament, under the bright lights of the Stade August-Delaune in Reims against a much lower-ranked opponent.

The United States won the game 13-0, with a brace from Lavelle herself. A goal in each half.

Lavelle displayed her brand of flair, diving headfirst into challenges throughout the midfield and into the attacking third, often pushing high out of the midfield line to linger in open spaces behind the forwards. She has a nice long-range shot, which contributed to her first goal (along with a nice little bounce). The second was a well-timed run and a training ground tap in that capitalized on her ability to get forward and add numbers in the box.

And yet, after the game, Lavelle is self-critical.

“It felt good. It felt a little sloppy. There’s some things I can clean,” she says, evaluating her own performance — which, again, included two goals. “I just think I didn’t connect some of my passes and I don’t think I was as clean technically as I should be.”

All of which might be true, but you’d think a 24-year-old who just scored twice in her World Cup debut could take the night off from criticism. Maybe that’s why she’s a starting midfielder for the USWNT in the first place; the mentality of a world level athlete is not the same as someone who plays pickup in the park every Sunday.

Perhaps she was saving some of her delight for the privacy of the locker room, among teammates. Perhaps she was trying to act like she’s been here before. After all, even though it was her first World Cup, Lavelle is already on 27 USWNT caps and seven goals.

And she had already bigger conquered bigger hurdles than the anxiety of her first game. It wasn’t until the last six months or so that she could even be sure she would be playing regularly for the USWNT, let alone starting.

“It’s wild,” Lavelle says. “Just about a year ago I was coming back from my hamstring injury so I was actually thinking about that last night, how far I’ve come in a year. It’s been a crazy year but I’m excited to be able to get to this point.”

Lavelle has always appeared to have a sanguine demeanor about her career. She’s been around the game for a long time and seems to relish any opportunity to play it, no matter how it comes at her.

The whole team played with a similar attitude in the opener, bursting onto the World Cup stage after a long wait. As part of Group F, the United States didn’t play until the very last game of the first set of group stage matches.

“I think we were all just like, at a point where we were just ready to step on the field,” Lavelle says. “I think when you kind of feel that, it’s like, you know you’re ready.”

Lavelle says she felt the atmosphere in the stadium and the support of a heavily pro-US crowd that roared after every goal. She doesn’t seem fazed at all to be coming off of her first World Cup result. She is most animated, in fact, at the mention of her family dog, Wilma Jean Wrinkles.

“Ugh, I wish she could be here,” Lavelle says, drawing her face down into a pout. But she brightens up at the mention of the dogs she has seen in France.

“There’s a lot of dogs,” she says, pleased by the fact. “I would say c’est le chien!

Lavelle doesn’t know much more French, but she’s got the important stuff down, it seems. There’s braces, there’s World Cup starts, and there’s dogs – what else do you need, really.