New England Soccer Today

U.S. Lands Olympic Berth

It was no walk in the park, but the United States claimed an Olympic berth after withstanding a spirited and stubborn Costa Rica to earn a 3-0 win Friday night at BC Place in Vancouver.

Tobin Heath put the U.S. on the board with a 16th minute goal while Carli Lloyd followed up with an insurance strike in the 74th minute. Second-half sub Alex Morgan added a third in the 89th minute. Goalkeeper Hope Solo blanked the opposition for the fourth straight match to help send the defending gold medalists to the London games this summer.

The Costa Ricans came out ready to shock their top-ranked opponent. With fierce challenges and an ambitious attack, Solo was called upon to make a few tough saves in the first frame.

Although the Americans were far from the world-beating bunch that outscored their opponents 31-0 in their last three, Pia Sunhage’s squad was slow to find their attacking fire until the 16th minute. Shannon Boxx played a ball across to Heath, who headed it through from the far post.

Costa Rica nearly responded when Karol Sanchez whipped a shot off the bar in the 28th minute. When the Tico weren’t attacking, they were sizing up their opponent with hard challenges and a few errant elbows and backhands, one which caught Lauren Cheney in the face. Even so, the referee decided that the best course of action was to keep her cards tucked.

Unwilling to play in their opponents’ tactics, the U.S. re-emerged in the second half with better form. As the possession scale fell further their favor, the knockout blow arrived with just over 15 minutes to go. Carli Lloyd collected a missed clearance and unleashed a laser from the edge of the box to double the lead.

Morgan, who constantly stymied the tired Tico defense after coming on as a sub, upped the total to three when she reclaimed an errant pass off a defender and buried it on the doorstep a minute from regulation.

The U.S. was an unstoppable force throughout qualifying. Outscoring their opponents 34-0, the Americans sent a clear and present message to their competition come London: get out of our way.

Up next for the Americans  is the tournament finale on Sunday, which will pit the U.S. against the winner of tonight’s Mexico-Canada match.

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