Any suggestion that the U.S. women’s national team might be unduly impacted by numerous off-field distractions over recent weeks was dispelled in just 12 seconds against Costa Rica on Wednesday. And after Alex Morgan’s fastest goal in U.S. soccer history paved the way for an emphatic 5-0 win, Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Co. will be gunning for a similar result when taking on Mexico in their second Olympic qualifier on Saturday.
The result against Costa Rica, while in line with the dominance the U.S. has asserted over Las Ticas, was an ideal result and performance after events of late. Not only is the team locked in a bitter labor dispute with U.S. Soccer, but goalkeeper Hope Solo stated this week that if the Olympics were held today, she would not make the trip to Rio de Janeiro because of the Zika virus. On top of that, the U.S. is also transitioning after the likes of Abby Wambach and Lauren Holiday retired following last year’s World Cup triumph.
But on the pitch, the U.S. reinforced its superiority in the Concacaf region and suggested that there is plenty of quality to continue to compete for the sport’s biggest titles. Morgan, hoping for an injury-free year, scored twice, both assisted by Lloyd, who also notched up her 83rd international goal. Christen Press added the goal of the game after a sublime first touch, while the breakout player of last year’s Victory Tour, Crystal Dunn, grabbed her fifth goal in her last nine international outings.
Dunn and her teammates have reason for anticipating further goals on Saturday back at Frisco, Texas’ Toyota Stadium. The U.S. holds a 31-1-1 record over Mexico, outscoring its rivals 139-12. The last meeting came just before the 2015 World Cup, when the U.S. triumphed 5-1 in Carson, California.
Mexico, currently sitting 26th in the FIFA rankings, endured a disappointing World Cup last year when exiting at the group stage after securing just a solitary point. But the side coached by former Mexico men’s international Leonardo Cuéllar joined the United States in making a perfect start to qualifying courtesy of a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.
Mexico has only ever made it to one Olympic Games, in 2004, and it faces a sizable task just to get out of the group this time around. With the U.S. already looking a lock to progress, Mexico is likely to be competing fiercely with Costa Rica for a place in the top two. Thus, while a draw or a win on Saturday would be ideal, simply limiting its margin of defeat and ensuring that a draw against Costa Rica in the final round of qualifying would be sufficient to progress will be something of a triumph.
The top two in Group A and from Group B, which features Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala and Guyana, will progress to the semifinals, with the two winners of those matches earning a place in Rio.
Match time: 4 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBC Universo