The United States defeated Mexico, 3-0, in the semifinals of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Canada. The U.S. will face Costa Rica on Sunday in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship while will Mexico will face Trinidad & Tobago in the third-place game, with the winner of the match also qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
“It’s exciting, although we are not completely done yet,” said U.S. defender Christie Rampone on qualifying for the World Cup. “We want to make sure that we finish off this tournament right and focus on the next game. But it’s exciting that we’re in and we can start the process now of getting ready for the World Cup.
It took just the U.S. six minutes to get the game’s opening goal as Tobin Heath served in a ball from the left flank that Carli Lloyd rose up and headed past Mexican goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar. The U.S. continued its early pressure with long balls over the top, forcing Tajonar to come out of her box and sweep away two potential attacks in the minutes after Lloyd’s goal.
In the 18th minute, Tajonar was called into action again to stop Christen Press in a one-on-one effort and moments later, Press missed another one-on-one attempt wide after being sent in on a long ball from Whitney Engen. In the 29th minute, Heath drew a penalty as she went down on a Christina Murrilo challenge in the far left side of the box. Lloyd converted the penalty kick for her second goal of the night and fourth of the tournament. That would end the scoring for the first half despite a few more close chances for the U.S.
Mexico started off on the front foot early in the second half, but it was Sydney Leroux who hit the crossbar in the 49th minute after getting on the end of a Megan Rapinoe cross inside the six-yard box. But the Seattle Reign forward popped it up in front of the goalmouth and the score remained 2-0. Five minutes later, Leroux played a perfectly weighted through ball to Press and she rounded Tajonar and buried the shot for a 3-0 U.S. lead. Three more chances came for the U.S. between the 55th and 65th minute but Leroux, and Abby Wambach, who came in as a sub for her in the 60th minute, and Lauren Holiday all came close but couldn’t finish. Lloyd was denied a hat trick goal in the 75th minute when she was called offside after heading home a Heath free kick. The U.S. had a chance for a fourth goal when Tajonar mishandled a cross in from the right but a waiting Press put the follow-up rebound off the post.
The U.S. applied early pressure to Mexico, a theme it has continued throughout the tournament. Although the U.S. didn’t convert on as many chances as it would have liked, it was still something the team took away as a positive.
“When we start [the game], we want to start fast,” said U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis. “We want to put teams under pressure and even our kickoff is a designed play, we’ve almost scored three times off of it. I think today we didn’t play as direct as we did against Haiti and that was by design. I had a feeling Mexico would sit in deeper and we had to be patient moving the ball and as the game went on, we got better at it.”
Mexico didn’t look in sync from the start as they sat back defensively and tried to weather the early U.S. attacking pressure. There were not many organized attacks going forward and when there were, it was mostly with the sole forward at the top of the formation with limited support, allowing U.S. defenders to track back.
“We dropped back too much during the game, we wanted the play the game a little bit higher up the field,” said Mexico Head Coach Leo Cuellar. “We wanted to have more distance in front of us in order to create more chances but we started too deep and it was difficult.”
The lineup that Mexico sent out for the match was a 4-5-1 formation that wanted to clog the midfield against the U.S. But the starting 11 didn’t include Charlyn Corral, Monica Ocampo, and Veronica Perez. When asked about the changed lineup, Cuellar said there was a longer-serving purpose for resting those players
“We had some very skillful players that were not in the game today,” said Cuellar. “We hope that with their rest that they will be ready and make a difference in the lineup and make an impact and that was part of the plan.”
Mexico will look to have those players on the field on Sunday afternoon in the third-place match against Trinidad & Tobago. The winner receives the final automatic CONCACAF berth for the 2015 World Cup while the loser will Ecuador in a home-and-home intercontinental playoff.
The U.S. will face a Costa Rica team that defeated Trinidad & Tobago in penalty kicks in the earlier semifinal to earn a spot at next year’s World Cup, its first World Cup.
Rampone Hits 300
Also on the night, Rampone appeared in her 300th game for the U.S., a feat that has been accomplished by Kristine Lilly, who appeared in 352 matches during her career with the U.S.
“It’s been an honor to be able to play with this team 300 times,” said Rampone. “Especially in a game like today it was more meaningful, it was not just about the 300 cap, but it was about the memory of advancing to the World Cup. It’s been definitely a journey; I’ve went from being the shy, quiet girl – a forward converted to a defender – to coming into a leadership role.”