US Women ease to CONCACAF Championship

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The US Women’s National Team started the tournament slow, but finished it in fine style with a comprehensive 6-0 win over an overmatched Costa Rican side. The US scored 4 in the first half, including a hat trick by Abby Wambach, in a dominant performance. Sydney Leroux and Carli Lloyd also added tallies as the team finished World Cup Qualifying with their best performance of the tournament.

A vocal crowd of 11,625 filled PPL Park for the USA match, with many trickling in during the Third Place Match between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago.

First Half

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis made three changes to the side that defeated Mexico on Friday. Abby Wambach, Morgan Brian, and Becky Sauerbrunn all started while Sydney Leroux, Tobin Heath, and Whitney Engen made way.

The US were in the attacking third early, and often, and scored with their first meaningful attack of the match in the 4th minute when a corner kick was only partially cleared. The ball was eventually played back around to the right side where Morgan Brian lofted a well placed cross to the edge of the six yard box. Abby Wambach had only to flick her header on goal as she ran in front of her marker.

The Americans should have had a penalty kick just three minutes later. As a looping ball made it’s way to toward Wambach again, a Costa Rican defender appeared to shove the striker in the back just before the ball reached her, but referee Lucila Venegas was unmoved and play continued.

Carli Lloyd was next up as the relentless US attack continued. Her run behind the Costa Rican backline was well spotted by Megan Rapinoe on 12 minutes. Lloyd was able to create a yard of space for herself with a clever turn but Dinnia Diaz was on hand to deny the shot at the near post.

Lloyd would find her goal shortly thereafter though, breaking through in the 17th minute. A deep corner kick was served by Rapinoe and Wambach met it 8 yards from a goal with a weak header. But Lloyd was quick to react to the ball and directed it past Diaz from 6 yards.

Wambach was unlucky not to score in the 22nd minute when a scrum in the box saw the ball fall to her. With the goal gaping, she could only tap a bouncing effort over the bar from 5 yards .

Lloyd had a great chance to secure a second goal for herself in the 31st minute when she easily dispossessed a Costa Rican defender and found herself one-on-one with Diaz. But she went for power with her shot from 14 yards rather than placement, and it sailed high and wide of the far post.

The US would find their third goal just minutes later, scoring in the 35th minute. Lloyd was again clever in tight space, receiving a pass in the box and worked a yard to clip in a clever cross from the endline on the left side. Wambach was unmarked again and finished with an easy header from 3 yards out.

Meghan Klingenberg almost scored her second spectacular goal of the tournament in the 37th minute, when she hit a thunderous half volley from the edge of the box that cannoned off the crossbar and back out.

Wambach would complete her hat trick before the first half was even over. The goal began again with the connection of Rapinoe to Lloyd down the left side. And again, Lloyd laid up a lofted cross for Wambach to run onto and head home.

Second Half

The US made a triple substitution in the 56th minute, with Sydney Leroux, Tobin Heath, and Heather O’Reilly replacing Christen Press, Rapinoe, and Brian.

The US continued to probe the Costa Ricans in search of a fifth goal. O’Reilly got into some good spaces down the right side but couldn’t find a final product on a few occasions with players in the box.

Wambach would add a fourth with her best goal of the night in the 71st minute. A rare foray into the attacking third from Costa Rica saw them give possession away and the US struck quickly on the counter. Leroux picked up a pass near the center circle and played a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Wambach down the right side. Wambach still had plenty to do but finished with a delightful chip into the far corner of the net, leaving Diaz with no chance.

Leroux would finish the night’s scoring in the 74th minute when fellow substitute Heath found space out on the left side to send in a lovely cross. Leroux had only to guide the ball past Diaz from seven yards to make it 6-0.

The US outscored their opponents 21-0 throughout the tournament. Hope Solo was awarded the Golden Glove award as the best goalkeeper of the tournament, despite having to make only one save in the four games she started in. Abby Wambach won the Golden Boot with 7 goals over five games. Carli Lloyd also picked up an individual award, winning the Golden Ball for the tournament’s MVP.

Wambach’s four goal night — her eighth international hat trick — saw her break Michelle Akers’ US record for goals in CONCACAF Qualifying. Wambach now has 18 to Akers 17. The all-time goal scoring leader now has 177 goals in 228 matches.

The final match of the tournament was certainly the most complete performance by the American squad. With with Canada hosting the World Cup in 2015, the region’s next best team was not even a part of qualifying. Victories over Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, and Costa Rica are expected, and expected with ease. But the team does have room to improve before next summer’s World Cup. Many of the US goals in qualifying came through the sheer advantage in athleticism, with 5 goals of final’s 6 coming from free headers inside 8 yards.

When playing teams with more clever attacking prowess and more organized defense, the US must add more dynamicism to its play as the bounty of free headers and defensive mistakes will disappear when they are forced to play teams like France, Germany, Japan and even Brazil in the World Cup. I for one was hoping that coach Jill Ellis would begin to instill that varied attack against the minnows of CONCACAF, but I don’t think an argument can be made that we saw that.

Ellis has until June of next year to figure it. The work begins in December with the the four-team International Tournament of Brasilia. There, the US will face China, Brazil, and Argentina.

Third Place Match

Mexico took on Trinidad & Tobago in the Third Place Match, with the winner joining the US and Costa Rica in qualifying for the World Cup. Mexico was the better team in the first half and took the lead through Sandra Stephany Mayor in the 24th minute. Trinidad & Tobago would grow into the match in the second half and find an equalizer in the 57th minute through Kennya Cordner. T&T would even take the lead in the 78th minute with Mariah Shade finishing a sloppy play in the Mexican box. But Mexico tied the game just a minute later when Monica Ocampo headed in at the back post.

The match would go into extra time where Mexico would find the quality they needed to send them through. Veronica Charlyn Corral scored twice in a two minute span during the first period of extra time to lead the way.

Trinidad & Tobago will now have to face Ecuador in a two legged playoff, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: Oct. 26, 2014
Competition: 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship; Final
Venue: PPL Park; Chester, Pennsylvania
Kickoff: 6:00 p.m. ET
Attendance: 11,625
Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy

1-Hope Solo; 16-Meghan Klingenberg, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 11-Ali Krieger; 12-Lauren Holiday, 7-Morgan Brian (2-Sydney Leroux, 56), 10-Carli Lloyd; 14-Christen Press (9-Heather O’Reilly, 56), 20-Abby Wambach, 15-Megan Rapinoe (17-Tobin Heath, 57)
Subs Not Used: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 6-Whitney Engen, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 18-Ashlyn Harris, 19-Julie Johnston
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

Costa Rica
1-Dinnia Diaz; 5-Diana Saenz (9-Carolina Venegas, 46), 6-Carol Sanchez, 8-Daniela Cruz, 10-Shirley Cruz (capt.); 11-Raquel Rodriguez Cedeño, 12-Lixy Rodriguez (2-Gabriela Guillen, 76), 15-Cristin Granados, 16-Katherine Alvarado; 17-Daphnne Herrera, 20-Wendy Patricia Acosta (19-Fabiola Sanchez, 74)
Subs Not Used: 3-Mariane Ugalde, 4-Maríiana Benavidez, 7-Gloriana Villalobos, 13-Noelia Bermudez, 14-Yesmi Rodriguez, 18-Yirlania Arroyo
Head Coach: Avedissian Garabet

Scoring Summary
USA – Abby Wambach (Morgan Brian) — 4′
USA – Carli Lloyd (Abby Wambach) — 17′
USA – Abby Wambach (Carli Lloyd) — 35′
USA – Abby Wambach (Carli Lloyd) — 41′
USA – Abby Wambach (Sydney Leroux) — 71′
USA – Sydney Leroux (Tobin Heath) –73′

Disciplinary Summary
USA – Megan Rapinoe (caution) — 27′
USA – Lauren Holiday (caution) — 60′

Stats Summary (USA / CRC)
Shots: 21 / 2
Shots on Goal: 14 / 0
Saves: 0 / 8
Corner Kicks: 8 / 2
Fouls: 18 / 6
Offside: 1 / 2

Referee: Lucila Venegas (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Mayte Chavez (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Emperatriz Ayala (SLV)
Fourth Official: Maurees Skeete (GUY)


  1. Kudos to Trinidad for playing the US to a 1-0 game, Costa Rica to 1-1 after 120 minutes and Mexico to 2-2 after 90 minutes before falling in overtime when they were dead on their feet (5 games in under two weeks including 2 overtimes is NOT easy). If you feel for any team, it has to be them. Their keeper is probably the one who deserved the golden glove, just for her play against the US alone.
    Also kudos to Costa Rica for not playing the same type of putting everyone behind the ball defense that everyone else played against the US. Costa Rica was obviously outgunned and the scoreline was more lopsided, but they also helped make the game more entertaining than the other US games (albeit with a wide scoreline).

    • Well said. The US vs. Mexico game wasn’t even a contest. Mexico didn’t seem the least bit interested in crossing the midfield line and playing any offense on Friday. They seemed to be in energy conservation mode for Sunday’s third place game already.

      Costa Rica, already being in, had the luxury of going for it a bit. I enjoyed watching T&T play too – the keeper and #12 on the right wing really stood out, and they seemed to punch above their weight. I was hoping they’d find a way to qualify.

  2. Those games were all fun, and a bonus that both early games went to overtime. I was near the Trindad fan section, they were bringing it.

    The USA looked like women against girls most of the time, but still fun to watch. That Megan Rapinoe has skills, the U could use some of those through balls she played.

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