The United States defeated Costa Rica, 6-0, in front of 11,625 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., in the final of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The victory was the seventh regional title for the U.S. The U.S. and Costa Rica have already qualified for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada by virtue of their semifinal wins over Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago, respectively.
“I’m delighted, I thought we played our best game of the tournament,“ said U.S. Head coach Jill Ellis. “Overall with the players, we look at performance as a whole and I think tonight was our best performance of the competition.”
It took four minutes for the U.S. to get the opener after a long shot from Meghan Klingenberg was directed toward Morgan Brian off a Megan Rapinoe corner kick. The University of Virginia midfielder crossed it to Abby Wambach, who headed it past Costa Rican goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz.
Costa Rica pressed high, often sending long balls over the top in an effort to break through. The Ticas didn’t sit back as deep defensively as the United States’ earlier tournament opponents. The commitment to play their style cost the Ticas, however, as the U.S. enjoyed the space it found. Costa Rica’s defense, so organized throughout the tournament, became stretched.
Twelve minutes after the first goal, the U.S. doubled the lead as Carli Lloyd scored her fifth goal of the tournament by finishing off a header across goal from a Wambach header.
Costa Rica started to find its way into the match after the early flurry from the U.S. but nearly conceded again off a misclear by Carol Sanchez, though Carli Lloyd’s close-range shot missed high. Lloyd made amends in the 35th minute when she took a pass into the box, cut to the end line, and found Wambach, who headed in her second goal of the night. That same combination clicked six minutes later when Wambach completed her first-half hat trick on a header off a Lloyd cross to give the U.S. a 4-0 lead going into halftime.
Costa Rica came out in the second half possessing the ball while the U.S. dropped deeper. Any time Costa Rica crossed the midfield line, though, the U.S. defenders were there to stop any potential attack. Substitute Sydney Leroux had the best chance of the half’s first 20 minutes when she got out wide right of the box but put her shot wide of the mark.
The U.S. goals kept coming in the the second half. Wambach was on the end of a long diagonal ball from Leroux in the 71st minute and lobbed Costa Rica’s Diaz from the top of the box for her fourth goal of the game. The score became 6-0 a minute later as Leroux connected on a left-flank cross from Tobin Heath, which ended the scoring for the night.
After the match, Lloyd earned the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament while Wambach won the Golden Boot for the most goals scored by an individual player. Hope Solo was awarded the Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper of the tournament and Costa Rica won the team Fair Play award.
Wambach’s four goals on the night (seven in the tournament through five matches), broke Michelle Akers’ U.S. record for most goals in World Cup qualifying. Wambach now has 18 goals in World Cup qualifying. It was also the second time Wambach has scored four goals in a game; the last four-goal game Wambach had was in June 2013 against South Korea in Harrison, N.J.
“I wanted Abby to play the full 90 minutes tonight and fill the back of the net, which she did,” said Ellis. “I think she made a real strong commitment to making sure physically that she’s ready for this and I think we she can be used in multiple ways. I wanted her in the starting lineup tonight and she delivered.”
Costa Rica had trouble containing Wambach throughout the night. Head Coach Garabet Avedissian said the Costa Rican players are very talented, but they don’t have the size to match up with Wambach.
“Well, all you can do when you play against Wambach when she’s playing like that, you pray,” said Avedissian through an interpreter. “You pray that the ball doesn’t get to her. Her height, especially the way she manages to head the ball is really something difficult to deal with. She’s an extremely intelligent player, she knows how to get herself into positions, she’s very intelligent about choosing her runs and she knows when she doesn’t have an angle to shoot, she knows when to put the ball down and to play it to a dangerous spot.
The U.S. will have a few weeks off before heading to Brazil to play in the four-team International Tournament of Brasilia. Ellis felt the team achieved its primary goals for the tournament and will look to continue to make progress during the tournament in December.
“Certainly the number one goal [of this tournament] was to qualify and the secondary goal was to win the championship. But the third part that we talked about at the beginning of this journey was performance, and can we work on the things that we’ve been working on. What I’m most pleased is, in such a short time the team has taken information and they’re applying it. So that’s the piece that eventually down the road is going to be most important. And we got to see some glimpses of things that we are capable of this week.”