After taking down Costa Rica 3-0 on Friday, the US Women’s National Team had clinched its bid to the 2012 London Olympics. The CONCACAF tournament final versus host Canada yesterday was just for bragging rights, but the USWNT continued to prove their dominance on the national stage.
The leading topic of discussion for the USWNT is head coach Pia Sundhage’s strategy in selecting her starting lineup. The US Women’s team has an impressively stacked lineup, but since the young Alex Morgan jumped into the spotlight of international soccer, lots of fans are anticipating the dream-team combo of star striker Abby Wambach alongside Morgan for the big tournaments ahead.
After not seeing any playtime in the 3-0 win against Mexico, Morgan came off the bench in the semifinal game against Costa Rica to score a goal in the 89th minute. Following the match, Sundhage expressed her delight with Morgan’s performance, but said her lack of versatility keeps her from the starting lineup: “When she’s coming off the bench, we tell her, just get past the back line, find the bending runs. You can’t do that for 90 minutes. You have to be more sophisticated than that. But if you play 20 minutes, you can do that.”
But Sunday’s game against Canada (who also qualifies for the London Olympics) brought the dream-team duo in the starting lineup with a 4-4-2 formation. Morgan took an early counter on a header from Abby Wambach en route to the first US goal. Wambach scored her 130th and 131st goals in the first half, passing former teammate Kristine Lilly (130), now only behind Mia Hamm (158).
US goalkeeper Hope Solo who had been fighting through an injured quadricep had a stellar performance as well, with huge saves on attacks by Canada’s star forward Christine Sinclair. Solo’s tournament performance of 454 consecutive shutout minutes set a new CONCACAF Olypmic Qualifying Tournament record, as the USA outscored its opponents 38-0.
Although the 4-4-2 formation set up a very efficient offense, it also meant that USA stars Lauren Cheney, Shannon Boxx, Heather O’Reilly, Rachel Buehhler and Amy LePeilbet began on the bench. This may come to be the biggest issue surrounding such a deep squad. Managing so much talent and getting all the players enough minutes to maximize the outcome is never easy. But Alex Morgan’s performance of two goals and two assists can only help secure her a spot in the starting lineup.
Watch the USWNT as they play New Zealand in a friendly February 11, 2012 at 2:00PM PT.