VANCOUVER, B.C. – The final game of the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament featured Team USA taking on Canada in front of a CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament record crowd of 25,427 fans at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver last night. Coming into this game both teams had qualified for the London, Olympics after winning semi-final games over Costa Rica, and Mexico. With nothing but bragging rights on the line in this derby rivalry game both sides wanted to win and end the tournament on a high note. However only one team came to play for the entire ninety minutes. Canada had not beaten the US Women in 25 games. Canada’s last victory over the US was a 3-0 win in Lagoa, Portugal, on March 11th 2001. The score on this occasion turned out to favour the heavily skilled, and superior Untied States as they cruised to a 4-0 win over Canada.
Canada certainly had the crowd going in the first couple of minutes of the game. Canada tried to send a few balls down the pitch to Christine Sinclair but she was called offside. Team USA opened the scoring in the 4th minute. Abby Wambach headed the ball up the field and a streaking Alex Morgan burst past Canadian defenders Shannon Woeller, and Candace Chapman to put the ball just inside the right post past the outstretched hand of Canada’s backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
After the US got on the score-sheet Canada seemed to settle down and handled the ball a lot better. However this did not translate into goals for Canada. Team USA quickly made it 3-0 thanks to their sensational striker Abby Wambach. Wambach’s first goal of the game came in the 21st minute when Alex Morgan did all the work and went around Shannon Woeller and lobbed the ball over to Wambach. Wambach beat two Canadian defenders to the ball and headed it past McLeod. Wambach’s second goal of the game was also assisted on by Alex Morgan in the 28th minute. Carli Loyd’s shot hit the left post and went right to Morgan who passed the ball to Wambach for a quick strike past McLeod. With those two goals, Abby Wambach moved into second place for goals scored in Women’s Soccer with 131. Wambach passed retired US forward Kristine Lilly and now has her sights on Mia Hamm’s record of 158.
Canada’s best chance to score came in the 43rd minute when Christina Julien was sent in on a breakaway. Julien ran right towards US goalkeeper Hope Solo and shot the ball right at her. Hope Solo didn’t face much action in this tournament but when she did she game up huge for her team. That’s why she’s above and beyond the best goalkeeper in Women’s Soccer. Canada’s back-line really struggled in the first half and Team USA capitalized on almost every scoring opportunity. The score at the half was Team USA 3 Canada 0.
Before the start of the second half each team made a substitution. In an effort to create some more offense and get Christine Sinclair more involved in the game Coach John Herdman brought on Melissa Tancredi for Kaylyn Kyle. Team USA’s Coach Pia Sundhage subbed off her teams biggest scoring threat Abby Wambach for play-maker Lauren Cheney. Both teams had a few scoring chances in the second half but the ball just sailed wide of each keepers net. Canada made a switch at right-back in the 53rd minute bringing on Quebec, native, Rhian Wilkinson for Robyn Gayle.
After being subbed on Rhian Wilkinson did not make much difference for Canada’s dreadful looking defense. Team USA’s Alex Morgan finished the scoring for Team USA in the 56th minute by beating three Canadian players who couldn’t contain her shifty, and nifty quick moves. On this night Alex Morgan was unstoppable. After a pass from Lauren Cheney, Morgan found herself just onside and she dribbled past the duo of Wilkinson, and Woeller before eluding goalkeeper Erin McLeod and depositing the ball into a wide open unguarded Canadian net.
Canada made their final substitution in the 60th minute when Mississauga, Ontario, defender Carmelina Moscato came on for midfielder Sophie Schmidt.
The loudest boos heard during the game were reserved for 21 year-old Sydney Leroux of Team USA. Leroux who has an American Father and Canadian Mother was born in Surrey, BC, but moved to the US as a teenager to follow her dream of one day playing soccer professionally for the US. Leroux was subbed on for Amy Rodriguez in the 62nd minute and the crowd immediately booed her every time she touched the ball. You could clearly hear the chants of “Judas” “Judas” reigning down from the “Southsiders” in the south end of BC Place Stadium.
Team USA made their final substitution in the 68th minute bringing on Rachel Buehler for left-back Heather Mitts. Buehler who dangerously gave the ball away against Costa Rica last game was not destined to get the day off on Sunday…
If you watched this game and you thought Canada looked awful, flat, and out of steam in the first half well they looked even worse in the second half. In the first half you could say Canada had the ball for a large portion of the half but that was not the case in the second half. Canada looked defeated and uninterested in trying to keep up with the much more talented Americans. Canada’s Coach John Herdman talked about what went wrong: “Pia made some great decisions tonight. She put technicians in the full-back positions, she brought technicians into the centre-back positions. I think they took out some of their physical players tonight and they went with technicians which really made it difficult for us to keep them in their half. I think had the selections been different it would have been a different score line. All credit to the coach tonight. She picked the right team and I picked the wrong one.
Team USA completely took Canada’s best player Christine Sinclair out of the game. Canada couldn’t get the ball to Sinclair and when they did she was swarmed by two or three American players. Coach Herdman tried to move Sinclair around in the second half but without any assistance from her teammates Sinclair was isolated and a non-factor. Sinclair talked about being shut-down by Team USA post game: “I don’t see it as I have to score for this team to succeed especially playing the position I have been. It’s about setting players up as well but we just got dominated. They’re a very organized team that have done their homework. I’ve had a successful tournament and they did a good job defending me but we’ve got to expect that when we play the best teams in the world.”
The following teams have qualified for the 2012 London, Olympics: Great Britain, Sweden, France, Canada, USA, Japan, North Korea, Brazil, Colombia, Cameroon, and South Africa. One spot is still undetermined and it will most likely go to OCEANIA side New Zealand. Canada will have to have more players show up in London if they want to win gold and possibly beat top teams like the US. Christine Sinclair is a phenomenal player but she can’t be expected to carry Team Canada all the way to a gold medal in London.
The best player on the pitch for both teams was clearly #13 Alex Morgan. Morgan had two goals and two assists and was a threat every time she got near Canada’s back-line with the ball. After the game Coach Pia Sundhage talked about whether or not Alex Morgan had earned a spot in the starting lineup from now on: “Well if we play tomorrow I’d say yes. We will still change the starting lineup quite a bit and regardless of who were picking it will be a good team. She brought something special today with Abby and we had our air presence and speed up top that made us look really good today.”
Notes: Team USA outscored their opponents 38-0 in this tournament. Christine Sinclair led the tournament in goals with 9. Lauren Cheney of the US led the tournament in assists with 7. Team USA will play their next game in Dallas, Texas on February 11th against New Zealand.