By Gavin Day
The United States Women’s National Team was at its overwhelming best as it pummelled rivals Mexico 4-0. As a result, the team is just one win away from the 2012 London Olympics.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd recorded her first career hat-trick for the U.S. and Heather O’Reilly added another to bring the American goal total to an astonishing 31 scored and none conceded. With the emphatic victory, the United States face a much easier semi-finals match-up against Costa Rica. Group A winners Canada will face Mexico.
“It was redemption for us,” said Lloyd referring to Mexico’s 2-1 upset win over the U.S. in their last competitive match in qualifying for last summer’s World Cup. “We came out strong and knew we had to get it done. There’s no second chances for Olympic qualifying so we made sure that we got into the semi-finals and the semi-final is going to be the big one.”
Lloyd dedicated the win and her hat-trick to teammate Ali Krieger who was knocked out of the tournament and possibly the Olympics with a torn ACL and MCL in her right knee.
Playing in front of a largely pro-Mexican crowd, the U.S. pressed early and came close a few times within the first opening minutes. Their pressure paid off in the seventh minute when Lloyd headed a ball to Rachel Buehler, who was starting at right back. Buehler’s close range effort came back off the post but floated back to Lloyd who headed into a largely unprotected goal.
The game was all but over just a minute later. Mexico’s 17-year old goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago made a mess of Amy Rodriguez’ cross from the left side. After Santiago mishandled the ball, O’Reilly followed the play in well to bang the ball home from close range and the U.S. was cruising.
“They are just the best, simple as that. They’re the best team in the world,” said Mexico head coach Leonardo Cuellar after the game.
Though their team was down by two goals, the largely partisan Mexican crowd continued to make noise to try to will their team back into the game but on this night, the Americans just couldn’t be stopped by their neighbors to the south.
Lloyd got her second in the 57th minute. Lauren Cheney floated in an inch perfect cross and Lloyd timed her jump perfectly to head home from in close at the far post.
She rounded off her hat-trick with four minutes left to play off another set piece. Substitute Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick was redirected by Buehler and into Lloyd’s path and she couldn’t miss from close range.
“Well I’m very happy about our four goals and especially Carli Lloyd– the way she was the end product of set pieces.” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “So we did well with set pieces.”
The victory sets up a winner take all semi-final against Group A runners-up Costa Rica on Friday. Should the Americans win as expected, they will book their tickets to the 2012 London Olympics.
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