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January 24, 2012
Lloyd ensures U.S. a win away from London

By Michael Lewis Editor

Carli Lloyd scored three of the U.S. Women's four goals against Mexico.
Carli Lloyd scored three of the U.S. Women's four goals against Mexico.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
VANCOUVER -- The U.S. continued its relentless pursuit of a Olympic soccer berth by rolling past archrival Mexico, 4-0, behind Carli Lloyd's hat trick to capture Group B of the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifiers at BC Place on Tuesday night.

The Americans (3-0), who have outscored their foes in the group stage 31-0, will play Costa Rica for the right to reach the London Summer Games at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, while host Canada will take on the Mexicans (2-1).

The U.S. also exacted revenge on Mexico, who stunned the U.S. 2-1 in the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying semifinals in October, 2010. That result propelled the Mexicans into the competition, while the U.S. had to qualify by defeating Costa Rica in the third-place match and then Italy in a special home-and-away playoff.

El Tri won their previous three Olympic qualifiers by a 13-0 margin.

If you blinked, you might have missed the U.S.'s first two goals. While they will go into the books being scored in the seventh and ninth minutes, they really were scored only 65 seconds apart.

The first originated from a Lauren Cheney corner kick. Lloyd headed the ball to Rachel Buehler, who sent a shot off the crossbar. Lloyd gathered in the rebound and slotted it past goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago for a 1-0 U.S. lead in the seventh minute.

The Americans struck quickly and suddenly off the ensuing kickoff. Known more for her scoring ability than passing, Amy Rodriguez motored down the left side and crossed the ball into the box. After a shot was blocked, Heather O'Reilly, who ran Mexico's left-sided midfielder and defender ragged for most of the match, put home the rebound for a 2-0 advantage in the ninth minute.

Abby Wambach almost made it a three-goal advantage in the 23rd minute, but Natalie Garcia Mendez managed to clear her attempt off the line.

Lloyd lifted the Americans into a 3-0 lead in the 56th minute, heading home Cheney's free kick from the left side from three yards out. It was Cheney's tournament-high sixth assist.

The Delran, N.J. native completed her hat trick in the 86th minute, putting home Rachel Buehler'a feed from six yards.

On the other end, the U.S. backline held off the Mexicans. When they did penetate, El Tri could not get off a decent shot on goal.

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