The Football Ferns have marked a milestone match for midfielders Betsy Hassett and Annalie Longo with a fighting 3-1 loss to the United States.
Battling altitude, a short buildup and coming to grip with a new-look lineup, New Zealand put up a credible showing against the world champions in Denver.
The first of two internationals was dominated by the world's top-ranked side but the 19th-ranked visitors had their moments and raised eyebrows when they pulled a goal back in the 74th minute to close to 2-1.
However, Alex Morgan responded with the the USA's third soon afterwards with a left-footed strike from a tight angle.
Close friends Hassett and Longo became the seventh and eighth players to line up in 100 senior internationals for the Football Ferns.
They were industrious against world class opponents who created a wealth of chances but were repeatedly denied by some stubborn defending and excellent work from goalkeeper Erin Nayler.
New Zealand began creating chances as the second half wore on and broke through when Hannah Wilkinson headed home a looping cross from Ali Riley.
It was Wilkinson's 25th goal from 82 internationals and her fourth against the USA.
The home side's first two goals went to Julie Ertz in the space of eight minutes midway through the first half.
She pounced at close range when team-mate Lindsey Horan won a key header and slammed home the second from the top of the penalty box after Megan Rapinoe hit the post.
The second game is in Cincinnati on Wednesday (NZT).
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