With four changes to its starting lineup, the United States Women’s National Team continued to show its depth Tuesday night, cruising to a 4-0 scoreline over CONCACAF rival Mexico.
The victory over Mexico, which helped the U.S. win their group, sets up an all-important semifinal against Costa Rica on Friday night with Olympic qualification on the line. Here are six thoughts on the game.
The U.S. will avoid Canada and Christine Sinclair in the all-important semifinals
While many Americans have come to expect Olympic and World Cup qualification as an automatic, that is no longer the case as both Mexico and Canada have proven they have the quality to defeat the United States on any given night.
The importance of defeating Mexico is that now the United States will play Costa Rica in the semifinals, instead of Canada, which should be a much easier game for the Americans. It also helps the U.S. backline as they won’t have to play against Canadian forward Christine Sinclair, who is one of the most dangerous, and physical, forwards in the world.
In Olympic qualifying, only the top two teams from CONCACAF qualify, meaning that if the U.S. defeats Costa Rica as expected, it will be playing in London next summer.
The U.S. continues to capitalize on its dead ball opportunities
While the United States has always been strong on set pieces, particularly corners, the surprising aspect of Tuesday’s set piece goals was that they didn’t come from Abby Wambach.
Carli Lloyd scored all three of her goals on set pieces, two of which were set-up by the scrappy play of Rachel Buehler who kept the ball alive on two of Lloyd’s three goals.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage inexplicably changed the formation at half
Sundhage, who has lined the United States up in a 4-2-3-1 for all of the previous matches in the tournament, all of the friendlies leading up to the tournament and the first half of the Mexican game, inexplicably changed to a 4-2-2-2 at the half with the United States up 2-0.
To be fair, the two early goals by the U.S., scored in the 7th and 8th minutes, had taken the wind out of the Mexicans, but Mexican confidence against the U.S. is at an all-time high and one goal by Mexico would have sent the game into a frenzy.
The other reason the decision is puzzling is that Sundhage’s refusal to go with two forwards has seemed to be the reason she won’t start World Cup sensation Alex Morgan. However, when Sundhage went to two forwards at the half, she brought on U-20 World Cup phenom Sydney Leroux instead of Morgan.
Lauren Cheney has solidified herself as the American “maestro”
Cheney, who has been at the top of her game since the World Cup last summer, looked impressive again, providing the incisive passes that set-up the Americans first two goals.
She also provided the service for all three of the Americans set-piece goals.
Even though she was replaced at the half, Amy Rodriguez had a solid game
A-Rod, who at times has gone from U.S. dynamo to U.S. also-ran, played well deployed as the left-sided attacking midfielder.
A-Rod’s game, which in the past has been largely based on her pace, displayed sophistication not normally seen. She worked out of trouble in tight space, worked back defensively, made solid passes to switch the field, made dangerous runs into the box and provided solid left-footed service into the box. She also provided the service that set-up the U.S.’s second goal.
Hope Solo is injured
Almost immediately into the second half, Hope Solo pulled up lame after a long clearance and continued to hobble and struggle with back passes for the rest of the night.
After the game Solo confirmed that she had “a little quad pull”. Even though the United States should be able to handle Costa Rica if Solo can’t play, it would obviously not be the best of circumstances.
John D. Halloran