It wasn’t quite a master class, but the USWNT did more than enough to secure a berth in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The 2008 Gold Medalists’ 3-0 win over Costa Rica extends its tournament goal return to a staggering 34 scored, none conceded.
Tobin Heath converted a header in the 16th minute after the Costa Rican defense failed to fortify its area. A sequence of nervy moments followed as the Costa Rican attack exploded into life. Hope Solo was called into action twice – a rare sight in this tournament – and ably dealt with the attempts put forth by Raquel Rodriguez and Carolina Sanchez. Costa Rica clearly paid no mind to the U.S.’s superb performances in its three previous matches. Heading into halftime, the Ticas appeared to have the psychological edge.
True to form, the U.S. re-grouped and closed out the match thanks in part to an improved second half. Carli Lloyd alleviated much of the pressure as she hammered a shot home on the other side of the half. The strike brings her level with Amy Rodriguez for most goals on the team with six. True to form, Alex Morgan closed out the proceedings with an 89th minute goal. The second half sub showcased a bit of flair as she dinked in a shot with the outside of her boot past goalkeeper Erika Miranda.
The U.S. began the match in a 4-2-3-1 with Abby Wambach leading the line up top. Kelley O’Hara got the nod at right-back . Costa Rica began to tear at the USWNT’s central defense midway through the first half before it was nearly ripped asunder. Solo’s proactive instincts prevented an equalizer.
The U.S.’s backline solidified in the second half and the team regained control of the match. Pia Sundhage’s side ultimately wore down Costa Rica, who appeared too taxed to continue its resistance.
Despite a few disconcerting moments, the U.S. did what it needed to do and punched its ticket to London. The team will return to the States with its mission very much accomplished, regardless of what happens in Sunday’s final against Canada.
Video from the USWNT’s presser:
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Speaking of the hosts, Big Red will join the USWNT in London after a spirited 3-1 victory over a cagey Mexico side. Anyone who witnessed the team’s exuberant celebration (complete with a victory lap) will be convinced Canada has truly put its annus horriblis behind it.
Christine Sinclair displayed her brilliance once more as she collected a pair of goals on the night. It was her second – a devilishly clever chip over goalkeeper CiCi Santiago – that practically guaranteed Canada’s consecutive appearance in the Summer Olympics. The deft finish also ties her with Abby Wambach for third most all-time with 129 goals. Sinclair and Wambach are now just one strike shy of equaling Kristine Lilly’s record. Sunday might well see another revision to the history books.
The raucous crowd at BC Place may also provided a glimpse of what’s to come should the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final be staged there. Sinclair’s historic goal scoring prowess might also be familiar sight come 2015.
Sinclair has averaged above ten goals a year for Canada since making her national team in 2000. She is now just 29 goals away from reaching Mia Hamm’s tally of 158 international goals; a record thought to be untouchable. If the 28-year-old continues to bang in goals at this rate, she could realistically best Hamm’s record.
One hopes it takes her another three and a half years so she can make history at home. And you thought last night’s atmosphere was something…