It was the toughest match the United States Women’s National Team has had but the Americans prevailed over a pesky Costa Rican team 3-0 at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The win propelled the United States into Sunday’s final and into the 2012 London Olympics. Canada defeated Mexico 3-1 in the second semifinal to gain the other Olympic berth and face the Americans in the CONCACAF final.
USWNT forward Abby Wambach talked about the game’s importance and the play of Costa Rica.
“Well up until now it’s the most important game of the year. It qualifies us for the Olympics and it’s a great feeling,” said Wambach. “No matter what the score line is I think everybody could kind of feel how big that game was. In the first half we scored a goal but I think there were moments where Costa Rica was outplaying us. It shows you exactly how important this was to all of us that nobody wanted to make a mistake. Luckily we didn’t and kept a clean sheet.”
The Ticas kept the United States off the board longer than any other team but in the 16th minute midfielder Tobin Heath found the back of the net.
US midfielder Shannon Boxx’s header was stopped by the Costa Rican keeper and the rebound went to the back post where Heath headed it into the box for the 1-0 lead.
Costa Rica used great footwork and persistence to put pressure on the American defense in the first half.
The Ticas play overall was technically solid and tenacious but the US pulled it together in the second half.
The Americans found the back of the net in the 73rd minute when Wambach hit a shot past the keeper which was cleared off the line by a Costa Rican defender. The shot went back to Wambach who passed it to midfielder Carli Lloyd at the top of the box for a blast into goal for a 2-0 lead.
The final goal was scored by second half sub forward Alex Morgan whose speed put the Costa Rican defense on their heels.
Morgan raced into the box and with two defenders on her chipped a side shot off her left foot over the keeper to extend the lead to 3-0.
“All my teammates joke that’s my signature shot, with the outside of my left foot,” said Morgan. “It was set up perfectly for me and I’m really happy with it. I looked to cut it back because I had other options and luckily it popped up from the defender’s foot kind of like a wall pass to myself. So it sat up perfectly, I saw the keeper going one way and I just flipped it the other way.”
US goalkeeper and Washington native Hope Solo played the full 90 despite an injured right quad. Despite the injury she played a solid game on shots by the Ticas.
They’re in the Olympics but the United States still has one more game in this tournament to win.
The Americans will face off in the final with their Northern neighbors Canada at 5 pm on Sunday, January 29th at BC Place in Vancouver.
Lopez is reporting from Washington.