VANCOUVER, B.C. – Team USA vs Mexico with the winner facing off against Costa Rica for a shot at qualifying for the Summer Olympics in London. The loser would be forced to beat host country Canada to earn a trip to the Olympics. On paper this was supposed to be the most competitive game of the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament and it was for the most part. The US didn’t want to take any chances with possibly having to playing the host country Canada and as a result Team USA defeated Mexico 4-0.
The US created chances to score early and after a few opportunities went wide of the Mexican net Team USA finally broke through with a pair of quick goals. Carli Lloyd scored in the 7th minute and just as her goal was being announced Heather O’Reilly found the back of the net in the 9th minute.
Mexico started to play a lot better after giving up two quick goals. Instead of sitting back and letting the US dictate play Mexico started going forward in an attempt to get some type of offense going. However the American back four of Amy LePeilbet, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone, and Rachel Buehler did a great job of protecting goalkeeper Hope Solo who was never really tested all night.
Towards the end of the game Hope Solo looked to be nursing a nagging right quad injury. Solo and Coach Pia Sundhage talked about that afterwards: “I think I have a little quad pull but luckily going into the next game the most important game I have an extra day of rest. I’m hoping things will be fine.”
Coach Pia Sundhage: “She tweaked something a little bit in practice the other day but it should be fine right now. It shouldn’t be any problem. We do have good backups if something should happen to Hope Solo.”
Before the second half began Coach Sundhage brought on Sydney Leroux for striker Amy Rodriguez. Sundhage decided to switch to a traditional formation of 4-4-2 to prevent Mexico from gaining any momentum and it worked. In fact it worked out so well that Team USA scored a beautiful goal off a free kick in the 57th minute. Lauren Cheney’s kick found Delran, New Jersey, native Carli Lloyd at the right post where she jumped sky-high to head in her second goal of the game. After that you could see Lloyd’s teammates trying to set her up for a hat-trick. Just before full-time in the 86th minute Rachel Buehler passed the ball to a wide open Lloyd who scored to complete her hat-trick. Carli Lloyd is tied for third in the tournament with five goals.
Star player Abby Wambach took a couple of tough tackles and went down in the 33rd and 34th minutes. Wambach who has a long history of having a wonky Achilles took her time getting up. Coach Sundhage decided to sub off Wambach for midfielder Megan Rapinoe in the 60th minute. Wambach talked about her health after the game: “I feel great. I think that Pia and the medical staff have done a really good job of keeping me fresh. I’ve played two forty-fives and then tonight sixty minutes it’s perfect leading into this next game against Costa Rica.”
Lori Lindsey who scored her first career international goal for Team USA last game against Guatemala was the last player to be brought on as a substitution for the US. The Indianapolis, Indiana, native replaced veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx in the 76th minute.
17 year-old Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago played really well considering who her opponent was. It was tough to think she could get a clean sheet and keep her team in this game but she did pretty good. Mexico’s star player Maribel Dominguez was virtually on an island by herself. Her teammates didn’t give her enough help. For most of the game it looked like Mexico was doing more ball chasing then they would have liked. The US was quick to smother Mexico anytime they threatened to get near Hope Solo’s net.
Team USA’s next match will be at BC Place Stadium on Friday night against 41st ranked Costa Rica. The winner of that game will be headed to the Summer Olympics in London. Costa Rica is coming off a 5-1 loss to Canada on Monday night and has a daunting task facing them if they want to go to the Olympics. Team USA is ranked #1 because they’re that good.
The mostly pro-Mexican crowd of 7,599 made it feel like a home game for Mexico which had to help their confidence despite the outcome of the game. It will be interesting to see if that continues on Friday night when Canada plays Mexico at BC Place at 8pm. The winner will be booking a trip to the London, Olympics while the loser might be drowning their sorrows with Tequila.
Notes: As a show of support every player with Team USA had the German word “Liebe” (Love) written on her arm as a tribute to defender Ali Krieger. Krieger tore her ACL and MCL in Friday’s game against the Dominican Republic. Lauren Cheney of the US leads the tournament with 6 assists.