The New Zealand women's under 20 footballers have been beaten 3-1 by the USA in their second game at the Fifa World Cup in Papua New Guinea.
Two early goals helped the USA as the three-time champions bounced back from an opening-day scoreless draw against France.
Ashley Sanchez and Mallory Pugh scored within the first eight minutes, but thoughts of a hefty scoreline dissipated as a resilient New Zealand stuck gamely to the task, ensuring the Stars and Stripes were made to work hard for the three points.
USA dominated the match, especially in the first half, but New Zealand slowly came back into the contest and jagged a goal back through Isabella Coombes with a quarter of an hour remaining. However, USA put the contest effectively out of reach five minutes later as substitute Ally Watt fired home on a breakaway, just a matter of moments after entering the fray.
The match could not have began any worse for New Zealand as a defensive error allowed Ashley Sanchez to easily score past an exposed Nadia Olla. Then USA captain Mallory Pugh doubled the advantage with a burst from midfield down the right, before firing in an unstoppable shot from just outside the penalty area.
Pugh had further opportunities to advance the scoreline, notably through their goalscorers. Pugh fired a loose ball over the crossbar from near the penalty spot, while Sanchez cracked an effort against the post from the edge of the penalty area.
Isabella Coombes scored for New Zealand after 76 minutes.
Coach Leon Birnie said "we knew USA were a quality side and we would have to play really well to match them."
"They started really brightly and you can't afford to concede two goals in the first 15 minutes. From there, we said to the players that they had to stay in the game, there was a lot of pressure on us and we couldn't concede a third or it would be game over," he added.
"To the girls' credit, we got through to half-time and then we spoke about a few little changes that would help us in the second half. We went out and did really well, we played well in patches and were a bit braver. We stuck to the game plan and were able to get ourselves back in the game. Then we pushed a few players up to try to get the equaliser and, unfortunately, USA intercepted and the girl finished really well to make it game over."
New Zealand beat Ghana 1-nil in their opening game.
Group C is tantalisingly poised followed the 2-2 draw between Ghana and France earlier in the day. USA are clear on four points going into their match against Ghana (one point), while New Zealand can qualify with just a draw against France.