February 15, 2016
By Michael Lewis
GOING FOR A CLEAN SWEEP
USWNT eye victory, full 9 group points in Olympic qualifying vs. Puerto Rico
FRISCO, Texas -- With one goal secured -- reaching the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship -- the United States has another one to strive for against Puerto Rico Monday night.
The world champions want to win Group A and travel to Houston for Friday's semifinals with a perfect 3-0-0 mark.
Head coach Jill Ellis has hinted at giving some regulars a rest against the Puerto Ricans (0-0-2) at Toyota Stadium. She might want to consider benching center back Julie Johnston and midfielder Tobin Heath as they have accrued yellow cards.
"Certainly looking at fatigue issues, looking rest and recovery and making sure we have a game plan and a mentality that make sure we can take care of business," Ellis said. "That's our No. 1 priority, to get three points and finish top in our group."
In Saturday's 1-0 win over Mexico, the Americans dominated, but could not solve a determined, organized and physical side until they were awarded a penalty kick. Captain Carli Lloyd had her shot saved, but converted the rebound in the 80th minute.
"It's not one of those matches where you walk away and feel good about it," Lloyd said. "That's the teams here are trying to do -- frustrate us and just get really compact behind the ball."
Ellis said she did not remember a Mexican side playing such tenacious defense. She praised Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar, calling him "a good strategist."
"They were very compact, very disciplined," she added. "We didn't help ourselves at times, but hat's off to them for a game plan that minimized the space, minimized the goal differential and helped them going into the last game."
Lloyd, who recorded a hat-trick in the FIFA Women's World Cup final last summer, felt the USA needed to move the ball faster to spread out the defense.
"When you dwell on the ball and take a couple of touches it kind of starts to become the theme within the group," she said. "We can move the ball quicker. It will definitely help. It will shift their defense."