October 20, 2014
By Charles Cuttone
MAKING IT COUNT
U.S. rolls past Haiti, knows importance of Friday’s semi-final
WASHINGTON, DC---Abby Wambach has been through these rounds of qualifying before. As the veteran leader of the U.S. Women’s National Team, she understands the CONCACAF Tournament is part of the process to getting toward the World Cup, no matter how easy it may seem.
|Haiti goalkeeper Geralda Saintilus pulls the ball off the foot of the U.S.’s Christen Press
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
“As a professional you can’t get too high or too low in these games,” she said after scoring two goals in a 6-0 romp over Haiti at RFK Stadium that assured the U.S. of the top spot in Group A and a place in the tournament semifinals on Friday at PPL Park in Chester Pa. The two winners of the semis as well as the winner of the third place game will qualify for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Trinidad and Tobago, which defeated Guatemala 2-1 in the earlier game at RFK, also advanced to the semifinals. They will play the winner of Group B on Friday.
Although the U.S. easily defeated Haiti, a team that has been training in the United States and playing as FC Indiana in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the rout was anything but a pretty soccer game, with Haiti packing players behind the ball while managing only one shot, though not enough of one to force goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris into making a save.
For Harris, it was her first international clean sheet. One that did not come without its perils.
“We knew it was going to be a game where they were going to pack it in,” said Harris. “Still, you have to be ready, you have to be on.” Harris said she was concerned a 60 yard ball might be popped in over her head.
Carli Lloyd gave the U.S. the lead in the ninth minute. A ball from the right side was punched out by Haiti goalkeeper Geralda Saintillus before Wambach could get a head on it. The ball fell to Lloyd on the right side and she slammed it into the net.
“We work hard to get on the scoreboard early,” said U.S. coach Jill Ellis, whose team has gained momentum as the tournament as played out. After a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. routed Guatemala 5-0 and then Haiti by six, all while keeping three straight clean sheets.
“I think a big step for us is not conceding a goal.”
Wambach made it a two-goal lead in the 39th minute. Christen Press lobbed a ball in from the right side. Haiti defender Roselord Borgella slipped in front of Wambach and got a head on the ball, but it deflected right to the US’s all time leading scorer who sent a header into the roof of the net.
The United States applied considerable pressure, that Haiti’s defense withstood for a while, breaking up chances and limiting the U.S. opportunities, but the defense eventually began to crack.
The United States got its next three goals as the result of bad clearances by the Haiti defense.
In the 57th minute, Heather O’Reilly made a run down to the end line and cut in toward goal. She sent a ball into the area that was poked by a defender and landed some 25 yards out. Meghan Klingenberg ripped a rocket straight through a group of players in the penalty area for her first international goal.
Four minutes later, another cross was poorly cleared and Lloyd chested it down outside the area. She played it forward to Wambach who had an easy tap in for the finish. Press got the fifth goal in the 66th minute in pretty much the same way.
The University of Virginia’s Morgan Brian, who made her national team debut, and scored her first goal for the U.S. at R.F.K. Stadium in a friendly last year, got one that counts, making it 6-0 in the 82nd minute with a strike from the edge of the 18 yard box.
The U.S. still doesn’t know its opponent Friday, and won’t until after Group B finishes at RFK on Tuesday, but perhaps knowing the U.S. lost in the semifinal in qualifying four years ago and had to play Italy in a playoff in order to qualify for the World Cup, Ellis is not taking it for granted.
“I know it s a cliché, but for this team, the next game is the most important one,” she said.