October 15, 2014
Mediocre USA gets past resolute Trinidad in Women's World Cup qualifying opener
KANSAS CITY, Kansas Ė As expected, the United States not only defeated Trinidad & Tobago in the CONCACAF Womenís Championship Wednesday night but the Americans shut out their foes as well.
But here is something that was rather unexpected: the USA could only muster but one goal against a resolute T&T side in a 1-0 win in Group A action at Sporting Park.
Striker Abby Wambach scored her world-record 171st international in the 55th minute for the Americans (1-0-0 3 points), which were in a first-place tie with Haiti (1-0-0, 3), which defeated Guatemala in the first game of the doubleheader at Sporting Park. Guatemala fell to 0-0-1.
The tournament will qualify at least three or four teams for next year's Women's World Cup in Canada.
Ranked 46th in the world by FIFA, the Soca Princesses certainly made life difficult for the top-ranked women's team by playing a tough defense and by keeping many players behind the ball. In seven previous encounters, the Americans never scored fewer than three goals against T&T.
Goalkeeper Kimika Forbes was magnificent in goal, stopping everything kicked and headed her way, but for one shot.
"Credit to them. They played a great game of soccer," Wambach said. "They stuck with their game plan. Their goalkeeper played a ridiculous game."
After enduring a frustrating start of near misses against a resolute Trinidad defense, the USA finally solved the defense 10 minutes into the second. A Carli Lloyd through ball found Alex Morgan bearing down on goal on the left side. Forbes came out to cut down the angle as several defenders ventured toward the USA striker. Instead of shooting, Morgan sent a cross to an open Wambach, who headed home her world-record 171st international goal.
The USA was out of sync, seemingly a step ahead or behind of passes and shots.
"We've just got to get the ball down and play," Wambach said. "A lot of teams are going to try to bunker us."
Goalkeeper Hope Solo almost gave the equalizer to Trinidad on a silver platter when her goal kick was intercepted by Kennya Cordner on the left side as the T&T standout sent her shot over the cross.
Most of first half was played in the Trinidad & Tobago end, but the Caribbean side managed to walk into the locker room with a scoreless draw, limiting American runs and passing games.
When the USA did have chances, usually on set pieces, it could not put many solid shots on goal or Forbes was making saves.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe seemed to originate most of those opportunities. Morgan headed a Rapinoe corner kick over the crossbar in the third minute. Nine midfielders later Rapinoe drilled a 25-yard free kick over the bar and Christen Press sent a bullet of a header off a Rapinoe corner over the bar in the 14th minute.
Lloyd forced Forbes to dive to her right to deny a 25-yard shot in the 39th minute. Barely a minute later, Wambach, standing with her back to the goal, tried to surprise Forbes with a flicked header that went straight to the keeper.
Rapinoe added to the USA's frustration as her left-wing cross ricocheted off the bar as Forbes hit the right post in the 44th minute.
Coached by former U.S. Under-23 national women's coach and Notre Dame women's coach Randy Waldrum, T&Tís best opportunity in the opening half came in the 41st minute when Kennya Cordner went 1 v 1 with USA captain and veteran defender Christie Rampone on the left wing. Rampone did enough to force Cordner to shoot from a difficult angle as goalkeeper Hope Solo had an easy time to record her only save of the half.
The Americans came out flying in the second half as Wambach's header set up Morgan's miss in the opening minute. It seemed the rest of the half was near misses with the Americans sending shots to the left right and over the net when Cordner wasnít getting her hands on them.
The USA will meet Guatemala (0-0-1, 0) in Bridgeview, Ill. Friday night while T&T faces Haiti.