Featured / USWNT

US Women Qualify for Olympics

The US Women took down Costa Rica 3-0 to book their ticket for this summer’s London Olympics. Tobin Heath scored in the first half, Carli Lloyd continued her current run of form with a goal in the second half, and Alex Morgan sealed the win with a late goal of her own.

Pia Sundhage made two changes from the team that faced Mexico on Tuesday, preferring Tobin Heath over Amy Rodriguez and giving converted striker Kelly O’Hara a start at right back. Becky Sauerbrunn was confined to the bench and Rachel Beuhler moved to the center to partner Christie Rampone.

After a bit of an uneven start, Heath was able to cash in on 16 minutes when the US continued their set piece domination in the tournament. A corner toward the far post was headed back across goal by Shannon Boxx and Heath was unmarked inside the six yard box for an easy header into an empty net. The US has been excellent on set pieces in the tournament and these smaller CONCACAF teams must learn to defend them better if they are to try and stay competitive.

The Costa Ricans responded well to going behind though, pressuring high up the pitch and keeping the Americans pinned back in their own end. Hope Solo, showing no effects of her injured quad, was forced into a good save on a ball over the top and then Fabiola Sanchez’s shot from distance rang the crossbar with Solo beaten. The first half finished with the ball pinballing around the midfield and a belief growing for the Costa Rican players.

There were no changes at half time, but the US took control of the game to start the second half. The fitness of the Costa Ricans seemed to fade and they were unable to maintain their high pressure style from the first half. Carli Lloyd had a chance from a free kick just outside the box after Abby Wambach was thrown to the ground, but the midfielder went for power and failed to hit the frame.

Alex Morgan was introduced for Tobin Heath and Amy Rodriguez for Heather O’Reilly with about 20 minutes to go in the game. Both subs used their fresh legs to run at an already tiring Costa Rican back line with Morgan looking to get in behind the defense and Rodriguez motoring down the wing.

A frantic sequence in the Costa Rican box on 72 minutes that included the ball being cleared off the line after some good work from Abby Wambach was finished when Carli Lloyd latched onto a bouncing ball and lashed a left footed shot into the lower right corner from 14 yards. It was a good finish from the hat trick hero of Tuesday night’s game after some frustrating set piece misses earlier in the half.

The impressive Alex Morgan secured the win when she scored with a great individual goal on 89 minutes. After a positive burst in the box to the end line, Morgan tried to cut back through two defenders when the ball bounced off a defenders thigh and landed perfectly for the striker to flick past the stranded Costa Rican keeper.

The Costa Ricans can go home with their heads held high after giving the Americans their toughest match of the tournament. Their high pressure frustrated the US team for the final 20 minutes of the first half and they were unlucky not to convert on either of their two big chances. The natural skill is there for many of the Costa Rican players, and given a little more time together with some additional fitness training, the Central American team should grow into a competitive squad in the region.

The US will go face Canada on Sunday night (8pm; universalsports.com, concacaf.com) in the championship game after the tournament hosts defeated Mexico 3–1 in the semifinal match following the US win. Both teams will have already qualified for the Olympics and the US squad could be altered to rest some key players, particularly in light of the injury to Ali Kreiger in the first game of the tournament. It should be a fairly hostile environment in Vancouver, even for a meaningless match.

US: Hope Solo, Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone (capt.), Amy LePeilbet, Heather O’Reilly (Amy Rodriguez, 70), Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx (Megan Rapinoe, 79), Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath (Alex Morgan, 72), Abby Wambach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *