The United States Women’s National Team is through to the 2020 Olympics in Japan after a 4-0 win over Mexico in front of 11,292 fans at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. Sam Mewis scored a brace, with Rose Lavelle and Christen Press also nabbing goals to lead the Yanks to the Concacaf Qualifying Tournament final against Canada on Sunday.
Vlatko Andonovski played nearly the exact same lineup that started the World Cup final for the U.S., with Alyssa Naeher in goal behind a back line of Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O’Hara. Mewis, Julie Ertz, and Lavelle patrolled the midfield behind a forward line of Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Tobin Heath. It was Dunn’s 100th U.S. cap.
The United States scored just five minutes in. Just seconds after Rapinoe sent a shot just a couple of feet wide, Ertz won a ball in the midfield and found Rapinoe, who flicked it through to Lavelle. The Washington Spirit striker cut toward the middle and smashed a banger with her left foot that beat Emily Alvarado and gave the USWNT a 1-0 lead.
Mewis tried to double the lead in the 12th with a blast from a similar spot on the field but Alvarado saw it all the way and fought it off, conceding only a corner. But Mewis did make it 2-0 in the 14th minute. Rapinoe fizzed a corner kick cross along the turf and either Ertz or the defender got just a slight touch on it, skipping it through to Mewis to smash home.
The corner.— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) February 8, 2020
THE GALS ARE COOKIN. pic.twitter.com/NPtCgrdXcb
Lavelle should have made it 3-0 in the 25th minute. Dunn did well to switch the field to a wide open O’Hara on the right. Her cross deflected to Lavelle just outside the six-yard box but she sent her shot well wide of the left post.
Unlike any of the USWNT’s previous opponents, Mexico was able to create some danger in the first half. Stephany Mayor redirected a cross wide of goal and had another shot blocked at the top of the area later in the first half. That led to a dangerous cross back through the U.S. penalty area and it bounced off O’Hara and Naeher was able to collect it to end the 28th-minute scramble. El Tri Femenil were also able to win a couple of corners with their pressure, testing the U.S. defense as no team had done so far in the tournament.
Lloyd got into the area in the 31st minute down the right side and tried to cross for Rapinoe but the two couldn’t quite connect and Alvarado may have gotten a slight touch on it to throw off the play.
The United States got a couple of dangerous crosses into the area down the stretch but other than that, didn’t accomplish much. The USWNT took its foot off the gas pedal a bit but Mexico also kept scrapping, keeping the match from getting out of hand. The U.S. took its 2-0 lead into the break.
The USWNT nearly earned a penalty just after the restart. Lloyd was clipped right at the top of the area but the referee ruled it happened outside the line.
Rapinoe sent her free kick across the top of the box to Dunn who fired wide of the target, wasting a golden opportunity to put the game to bed in the 48th minute. A minute later, Heath found Lloyd with a great cross but the captain couldn’t hit the half volley chance cleanly and it sliced way off target.
Mexico’s Kiana Palacios nearly made the U.S. pay for those missed chances in the 52nd minute when she shook free outside the area and fired a strike on goal that forced Naeher to scramble to her right to make a save at the post.
A minute later a cross from Rapinoe sizzled through the six and needed just a touch but Heath couldn’t quite reach it. Lloyd then popped up a header on the recycle as the U.S. continued to probe for a knockout punch. It should have come in the 60th minute when O’Hara sent a cross right to left that Mewis headed back for Lloyd to finish, but the captain again hit her shot poorly and it sailed high from point-blank range. Lavelle was nearly in alone a minute later but took a heavy touch and Alvarado was able to come off her line to collect it without allowing a shot.
Heath was clobbered just outside the area in the 65th minute and the USWNT capitalized on the ensuing free kick. Rapinoe faked taking the shot and Mewis slammed it inside the far post to make it 3-0 in the 37th minute, completing her brace. Alvarado was in decent position but there was just too much sauce on it and by the time she saw it, it was too late to stop it.
After the goal, Press and Lynn Williams replaced Heath and Rapinoe. Press nearly scored just after coming on. In the 71st minute, Dunn sent a cross from the left corner that Press nodded toward goal. Alvarado made a good reaction save to just push it over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Press had her goal, making it six consecutive games with a scoring strike for the Utah Royals forward. She weaved into the penalty area before firing a shot that was blocked, but she calmly recovered and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper in the 73rd minute to make it 4-0.
All that and a bag of chips. pic.twitter.com/0A9YvznMfn— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) February 8, 2020
After that, it was only a matter of whether the U.S. would add a fifth goal, and the Yanks came close through Lloyd a few times and second-half sub Lindsey Horan a couple more. But Alvarado made some big saves down the stretch to keep the final score line from getting any more lopsided. The U.S. had to be content with just the four and a trip to Tokyo this summer.
The United States improved to 22-0-1 in Olympic qualifying matches, 37-1-1 in the series against Mexico, and 23-0-3 since the team’s last loss in France in January of 2019. The USWNT has outscored its four opponents by a combined 22-0 in this tournament.
The United States will face Canada — fortunate 1-0 winners over Costa Rica in the earlier semifinal — on Sunday in Carson, CA, for the tournament crown at 6 p.m. ET.