VANCOUVER, B.C. – Team USA vs Costa Rica on paper this should have been a complete miss match with Team USA crushing 41st ranked Costa Rica to earn a spot at the London, Olympics this summer. However sometimes what you have on paper doesn’t always formulate itself when the games are actually played and that’s exactly what happened. Team USA won 3-0 but they sure didn’t look like their usually selves or the team that had outscored their opponents 31-0 coming into this game. The Costa Rican team looked entirely different from what we saw on Monday when they looked abysmal in a 5-1 loss to Canada. Costa Rica came to play and they played a hell of a game against the United States. The was the most competitive game of the tournament for the US. Costa Ricans should be proud of their team for the effort they put forward. Costa Rica came into this game with an extra day of rest and it clearly showed in the first half.
Costa Rica came out playing aggressive hoping to catch the Americans off guard and instead their aggressive play earned them a quick yellow card in the 4th minute when Fabiola Sanchez collided with US midfielder Carli Lloyd. Costa Rica continued to play aggressive and quite competitive for the first 15 minutes of the game until the US got their first corner. In the 16th minute Lauren Cheney delivered the ball into the box where midfielder Shannon Boxx’s header sent the ball towards fellow midfielder Tobin Heath. Heath headed the ball past a defender and Costa Rican goalkeeper Erika Miranda to make it 1-0 USA.
Costa Rica continued to push forward after allowing the opening goal and created three great scoring chances in the next 10 minutes. Rachel Buehler gave the ball away outside the box and US goalkeeper Hope Solo had to dive to make a great save off of Costa Rica’s Fernanda Barrantes in the 19th minute. A few moments later Solo ran out to cut down Raquel Rodriguez’s attempt on goal. The best chance for Costa Rica came from a Carol Sanchez long-range shot that struck the top right post where it meets the crossbar.
Hope Solo’s ability to weather the storm in the first half really set the tone for the rest of the game. Solo, who didn’t have much work in Team USA’s three “Group B” games really gave her team a spark when they needed a jolt of energy. With Team USA leading only 1-0 at half-time Hope Solo talked about what she was thinking during half-time with her team only up by one goal: “Going into the locker room at halftime one zero wasn’t comfortable for us at all. I knew that anything could happen. I had a wakeup call where I actually thought back to the final against Japan when we thought it was in the bag and we thought it was our game to win and we were proved differently. I had that in the back of my mind and I knew that anything could happen.”
Neither team made any substitutions at the half. Costa Rica continued to keep the game close with their constant aggressive attacking style of play that seemed to surprise and hurry Team USA. Costa Rica’s tackles and lack of regard shown towards USA’s players earned the US a great opportunity to score in the 59th minute when Raquel Rodriguez sent Abby Wambach flying with a hockey style hip-check. Carli Lloyd stepped up to take a free kick for the US and sent the ball just past the Costa Rican wall and too far to the right side of the net.
In an effort to get some offense on the score-sheet both teams made a substitution soon after the Lloyd free kick. The US brought on Alex Morgan for goal-scorer Tobin Heath in the 62nd minute and Costa Rica brought on Lixy Rodriguez for Fernanda Barrantes in the 64th minute. The US was awarded another free kick in the 68th minute which Lloyd took again and sent the ball just sailing wide to the right side of the net.
The US made their second substitution in the 69th minute, taking off Heather O’Reilly and bringing on Amy Rodriguez. A few minutes later the US found the back of the net with a Carli Lloyd blast from the slot in the 72nd minute. Lloyd was left unmarked while Costa Rica was just standing around ball watching after goalkeeper Erika Miranda made a finger tip save on Abby Wambach’s shot from the wing. Wambach got the ball after Costa Rica cleared it off the line and found Lloyd in the slot to make it 2-0 USA.
The last sub for the US came on in the 79th minute when Megan Rapinoe came on for Shannon Boxx.
Gifted play-maker Alex Morgan put the final nail in the Costa Rican coffin in the 89th minute with a great individual effort. Morgan dribbled and flicked the ball past one defender before chipping the ball past Costa Rica’s goalkeeper. Morgan always makes things happen when she’s on the pitch. It won’t be too long before Alex Morgan is in the starting lineup for Team USA.
Costa Rica made their final two subs in the 87th and 90th minutes. Diana Saenz came on for Carolina Venegas and Cristin Granados came on for captain Shirley Cruz but it just wasn’t enough in the end.
Here’s what USA’s Coach Pia Sundhage had to say after the game: “I always say that I respect the game and the opponents and this is the proof. You can’t take anything for granted. We score a lot of goals, but Costa Rica they came out and played well, played hard. Eventually we had three goals despite the first goal fell in quickly, we struggled a little bit.
With Team USA headed to the summer Olympics in London they will most likely be the favourite to bring home gold in Women’s Soccer. The Olympics run from July 27th – August 12th. If you love Women’s Soccer this is a great sport and event to get behind.
Notes: Carli Lloyd is now tied with Team Canada player Christine Sinclair for the tournament lead in goals with 7. (This was before Canada played Mexico) Team USA will play the winner of Canada vs Mexico at 5pm on Sunday night at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver to wrap up the tournament.