January 29, 2012
By Michael Lewis
LEAVING NO DOUBT
USA rolls over Canada, 4-0, as Wambach, Morgan stand out
VANCOUVER -- Speed kills, and so does Abby Wambach.
|Abby Wambach scored two goals and created a third in the first half for the U.S.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Just ask the Canadian women's National Team.
The combination of Wambach and Alex Morgan were way too much for the Canadians on Sunday night, the United States showed who still was the boss in CONCACAF.
Wambach, the wily old veteran, scored two goals and created a third in only one half of action, while Morgan, thanks to her blazing speed, found the back of the net twice and set up two others as the Americans cruised to a 4-0 victory over Canada in the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament championship game before a capacity crowd of 25,427 at BC Place.
Both teams already had punched their tickets to the London Summer Games, so the only thing that was at stake was national pride and bragging rights. And the Americans, the top-ranked women's team in the world, made sure they left enemy territory with the latter, at least until the next time these two respected sides meet. The Canadians are No. 7 in the latest FIFA rankings.
Since losing in a shootout to Japan in the Women's World Cup championship match last summer, the Americans have not lost, having forged an eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) and outscoring their foes, 43-2. During this competition they were even more impressive, not surrendering a goal while connecting for an astonishing 38 goals in five victories.
"It's great to feel the gold," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "They gave us a hard time. We put everything together. We made them look poorly at times. But they created chances."
Part of the pre-game was the confrontation between the much anticipated confrontation between two of the best players and goal-scorers currently in the world. Both players entered the match tied for third on the women's international scoring list with 129 goals piece. By the time referee Quetzalli Alvarado of Mexico blew the final whistle, Wambach emerged in the No. 2 spot with 131 goals, surpassing former teammate and retired Kristine Lilly (130) with Mia Hamm (158) next in her sights.
"The first half, everything they hit hit the back of the net," Canada coach John Herdman said. "That's the difference with the U.S. When they're hot, they're hot. They were white hot tonight. That's what they can do to teams. We've seen them destroy teams over the last few years."
Morgan's speed was just too much for Canada to handle during the opening 25 minutes. Add a target player such as Wambach, it could be down right devastating.
"We definitely play really well together," Wambach said. "Her skill set is completely opposite of mine and that's what makes her a nightmare for any defense. She's so fast. Not only is she fast, but she's strong on the ball. So, if its a 50-50 challenge, especially if it's a goal-scoring opportunity, she's likely to win it and likely to get an opportunity and a shot on frame."
Which she did twice in the game.
With the game barely four minutes old, Morgan made an impact and a statement with her blazing speed. Midfielder Carli Lloyd lofted a pass from the American end of the field to Abby Wambach, who flicked the ball with her head forward to an onrushing Morgan. The 22-year-old forward then put on her after-burners, running through Candace Chapman and Shannon Woeller into the penalty area. As a third defender, Shannon Woeller raced on the left to try to stymie the play, Morgan beat goalkeeper Erin Katrina McLeod from 10 yards for a 1-0 lead.
It was Morgan's third goal of the tournament and Wambach's fifth assist.
"A couple of silly mistakes," Canada coach John Herdman said. "It looks like pressure set in again. They came through the semifinal game and we talked about this being the Olympic gold and what would happen. Could we actually finish the gold medal. We were four goals away from the USA tonight. They showed their promise."
Sinclair did her best to cause some trouble on the U.S. backline while trying create scoring opportunities for herself or her teammates. She did so in the 18th minute as she tried to find some room around the penalty arc. She shuffled off a pass to her left to Christina Julien, who bolted toward the goal. Goalkeeper Hope Solo came out to block Julien, who lost the ball as the U.S. defense managed to clear the ball away.
Solo was called on to make an entirely different save in the 22nd minute. A looping long ball from the left side came tantalizing close to the upper right corner. The veteran keeper tipped the ball off the crossbar before falling on it with Sophie Schmidt right next to her waiting for a possible loose ball.
Morgan was at it again in the 24th minute. This time she cruised down the right side past two defenders and crossed the ball to Wambach, who headed it home from point-blanked range as McLeod and teammate Woeller collided in the penalty area. That goal tied Wambach with Lilly.
"We came out really strong," Wambach said. "The early goal kind of took the wind out of their sails a little bit. It quieted the crowd down a considerable amount. Of course, that second goal is just the back breaker for them. It's hard to score one goal against the U.S., let alone two to equalize and three to go ahead."
The combination of Wambach and Morgan was far from finished. McLeod saved an 18-yard shot by Lloyd. The rebound came to Morgan, who tipped a short pass to her left to Wambach, who slotted it home from eight yards for a stunning 3-0 advantage and her 131st goal. It was Morgan's sixth assist of the competition.
"The first half, everything they hit hit the back of the net," Herdman said. "That's the difference with the U.S. When they're hot, they're hot. They were white hot tonight. That's what they can do to teams. We've seen them destroy teams over the last few years."
Even with the U.S. enjoying a substantial lead, Solo still was alert and at the top of her game. Julien and Sinclair broke through the defense on a two-player break. With Julien leading the charge and Sinclair just behind her, Solo denied the forward a second time, blocking her eight-yard shot in the 44th minute.
At halftime, U.S. coach Pia Sundhage pulled Wambach for Lauren Cheney, who created the fourth goal. She sent a long ball to Morgan, who motored into the left side of the Canada box. Rhian Wilkinson tried to tackle the ball away from Morgan. She failed but cut down the angle. So the former Cal standout spun around, found some room and sent a 14-yard shot into the net.
"As the ball came in, I wasn't sure if I was onside or offside. but I continued the play," Morgan said. "I actually didn't see the girl behind me until she was really right next to me. I tried to take the goalkeeper on 1 v 1. Fortunately, luck was on my side during that goal. But it wasn't the prettiest of the goals I've had."