October 24, 2014
By Michael Lewis
USA women remember crushing 2-1 defeat to Mexico in 2011 WWC qualifying, to use it as motivation
CHESTER, Pa. -- That memory -- some might call it a black eye -- is ingrained in the memories of U.S. women's national team veterans Christie Rampone and Carli Lloyd forever.
On Nov. 5, 2010, Mexico stunned the Americans, 2-1, in the CONCACAF Women's Championships semifinals, forcing them to qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup by defeating Italy in a special playoff.
It is an experience the USA does not want to experience again, which makes Friday night's 2014 CWC semis a must-win situation against the same Mexican team at PPL Park. A victory will propel the Americans into their seventh WWC, a loss will force a playoff game against the loser of the Costa Rica-Trinidad & Tobago semifinal on Sunday.
"I don't think I'll ever forget that game," said Rampone, who is set to make her 300th international appearance as a defender. "As an athlete you definitely remember the tough times and how you got through them. It's always in the back of my head."
Ditto for Lloyd, who is best known for striking for the winning goals in the last two Olympic gold medal matches.
"It was a wake-up call," she said. "This team has been the No. 1 team in the world for so many years. I'll never forget that game, the field, the atmosphere, the frustration."
It was the only qualifying loss suffered by the USA.
"Nothing is a guarantee with this team," Lloyd said. "Any opponent you play we're not guaranteed a win. It kind of humbled us a bit for future stuff. We all know what's at stake. We know what we have to get done. Going through an experience like that, we all know we don't want that to ever happen again."
So, the Americans will use it as motivation to make sure history doesnít repeat itself.
"We have to always make sure we come out with the right mindset and make sure we are communicating and we're organized and we're decisive," Rampone said. "We've got to have a good tempo. We've got to use our flanks. We've got to make sure we stick to the game plan and not too get frustrated, not get too rattled that weíre not scoring in the first half. We still have to communicate out there and have good energy and work and solve the issues we have dealing with in the game."
The USA went on to qualify for the 2011 WWC and lost in the final. The Americans went on to win their second consecutive Olympic gold medal at the London Summer Olympics, further solidifying its hold as the top-ranked team in the world.
In two recent friendly matches, the USA prevailed over Mexico, 8-0 and 4-0. But that was then and this is now. So those games don't count.
"Those were friendly games," Rampone said. "So itís different. We're competing in a semifinal, the levelís raised. They're better, we've gotten better, so itís definitely going to be a better game. But you can't go in overconfident. You've got to go in with the mentality with being sure and ready."
Mexico coach Leo Cuellar, who directed El Tri in that 2010 upset, realized the USA will throw everything at his team.
"We know the quality and the strengths of our opponent," he said, adding that the game was "going to be more complicated" than the group stage matches.
"We are going to try to be ready for the challenge. The Mexican players see this as an opportunity to play one of the giants in the world soccer. We have a couple of very bad results [with] the U.S. We understand that. We're working to correct things and we're expecting to be a different opponent."
Cuellar admitted the Americans have many great players, but said "the games need to be played."
"We also would like to be as aggressive as possible," he said. "We will present ourselves with the possibilities to enter the ticket. Itís one of those games, you have to manage that game as a perfect game. You cannot make mistakes in many areas. You have to be very efficient. You have to be very disciplined. The level of concentration by us has to be high. We expect to be ready mentally, to stay strong."