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U.S. Women's National Team

U.S. Crushes Guatemala 5-0 In Second WC Qualifier

Behind two goals from Tobin Heath and an encouraging performance from Megan Rapinoe, the United States women's national team soundly defeated Guatemala, 5-0, in Bridgeview, Illinois.
BY John D. Halloran Posted
October 18, 2014
9:46 AM
ON FRIDAY NIGHT in Bridgeview, Illinois, the United States women’s national team took a big step toward qualifying for the 2015 World Cup in Canada with a 5-0 win over Guatemala. Goals for the U.S. came from Tobin Heath (2), Carli Lloyd, Whitney Engen, and Megan Rapinoe.

Here are four thoughts on the match.

Take a bow, Tobin Heath

Even though the United States was only up 1-0 at the half, it was obvious from the first minutes of the game that Heath was ready to play and would make a big impact on the match.

Not only did Heath score twice—the first coming from a bit of grit and the second on an audacious backheel—but she seemed to be playing with a chip on her shoulder after being left out of the starting XI in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifying opener on Wednesday night against Trinidad and Tobago

Heath’s impact came as much from her creativity on the wing as from her work in front of the net and, after a series of underwhelming recent performances, she finally looked ready to reclaim her spot in the lineup.

Why the slow start?

Although the U.S. did finish with a 5-0 win and utterly dominated the run of play once again, the fact that the scoreline was only 1-0 after 45 minutes of play won’t allay the fears of many fans that the team has not progressed under head coach Jill Ellis. The fact that both Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala packed up to 10 players behind the ball did not make things easy. It could also be that many CONCACAF teams are finally starting to close the gap with the U.S.

Many fans, however, remain convinced that the team’s problems are a result of the 4-3-3 formation. The bonus of the setup is that the U.S. has been getting plenty of good wide play and long spells of possession. The downside is that without two center forwards, it is more difficult to keep opposing center backs occupied and scoring chances for the lone forward in the 4-3-3 are harder to come by.

Some of the U.S.’s struggles may simply be growing pains as the U.S. looks to play a more sophisticated and possession-oriented attack, but the fact that the U.S. has struggled to score early and often against these CONCACAF minnows means that the questions will continue to be asked.

Megan Rapinoe back on track

After a poor performance on Wednesday night, Rapinoe was back in her groove on Friday, creating the majority of the U.S.’s most dangerous opportunities. She combined particularly well with Heath on the left side of the U.S. attack and finished the match with a goal and an assist—as well as being instrumental in the build-up on two of the U.S.’s three other goals. She also won Woman of the Match honors—which she clearly deserved.

Hack a Shaq

One of the more disturbing aspects of Friday night’s match was the disastrous performance of the officiating crew. It was obvious right from the opening whistle that Guatemala’s strategy was to put a body on U.S. attackers at any chance possible and, with the center official apparently unwilling to issue cautions, the hard fouls only got worse as the game continued. (The match’s sole yellow card was actually issued to the U.S.’s Sydney Leroux.)

Even before Alex Morgan was injured, she was being knocked around consistently, including one takedown on a corner kick that appeared to be a clear penalty. And while the contact that caused Morgan’s injury appeared to be as much accidental as intentional, Morgan was incorrectly judged to be offsides before the contact even occurred (she will have a scan on Saturday to determine the extent of the injury).

Throughout the game, a series of phantom fouls, incorrect calls on corner kicks, and a poor understanding of the offside rule clearly frustrated players on both teams.

Once, in the second half, Heath got in behind the Guatemalan defense on the dribble. Her attempted cross was blocked and when it bounced straight back to her, she was ruled to be offside on her own cross.

The U.S. also had a goal disallowed just before the halftime whistle on a dubious foul.

The unwillingness of the center official to control the game resulted in several U.S. players taking hard knocks and spending long spells on the pitch writhing in pain. To their credit, the Americans kept their cool and didn’t retaliate. However, if this had been a closer game, the poor officiating easily could have made the difference for one team winning or losing.

John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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