U.S. Women Dominate Costa Rica in Easy 5-0 Victory
February 11, 2016
THE UNITED STATES women’s national team opened up Olympic qualifying on Wednesday night throttling Costa Rica 5-0 in front of a sparse crowd in Frisco, Texas.
The Americans got off to a quick start in the contest with Alex Morgan finding the back of the net only 12 seconds into play. Carli Lloyd quickly followed up with a tally of her own on a penalty kick in the eighth minute before Crystal Dunn effectively ended the contest when she scored in the 15th minute to put the U.S. up 3-0.
In the second stanza, the Yanks added two more with Morgan finding her second goal of the night and Christen Press scoring a late beauty.
Here are three things we learned from the contest.
HIGH PRESSURE EARLY AND OFTEN
From the opening whistle, the U.S. put Costa Rica under heavy pressure and, coupled with Morgan’s goal in the first minute of play, the shellshocked Central Americans never recovered.
The U.S.’ high defensive line effectively killed off the Costa Rican attack before it could even get started and the Ticas rarely crossed the half line in possession.
Coupled with the poor penalty call in the eighth minute—Crystal Dunn was no doubt fouled, but it happened two yards outside the area—the U.S. didn’t give Costa Rica a second to catch their breath and all but won the competition before the halftime whistle blew.
HORAN EXPERIMENT STILL JUST THAT
The United States women’s national team enters Olympic qualifying with only 13 of the 23 players that represented them at the World Cup only seven months ago. In total, the 10 players not on the team this time around averaged 157.5 caps.
Among the many absences, the most difficult player to replace for head coach Jill Ellis is Lauren Holiday, who marshaled the U.S. midfield in their World Cup-winning bid. For now, Ellis has handed the midfield keys to Lindsey Horan, a 21-year-old youngster who only has eight caps to her name.
Horan has shown some bright moments thus far, and did so again on Wednesday. She worked out of pressure on several occasions, switched the point of attack, and demonstrated an impressive passing range. Most importantly, especially in the first half, she sat deep—just in front of the center backs—and constantly made herself available as an outlet.
However, there are gaps in her midfield game. She still tries to play long too often, and occasionally bolted forward to try and find space when her center backs were under pressure and a passing lane wasn’t immediately available.
None of this is surprising, nor necessarily damning considering Horan’s relative lack of experience at the position. In fact, by her own admission, she last played as a center midfielder on a regular basis when she was 15.
However, with the U.S.’s expected dominance in this tournament and the usual weakness of their CONCACAF competition, the Americans likely won’t know until the SheBelieves Cup next month—when they play England, France, and Germany—whether Horan will really be a suitable midfielder for the U.S. at the Olympics this summer in Rio.
MORGAN WITH A CONFIDENCE BOOSTER
One positive heading into the rest of the tournament is the fact that Morgan scored early and then picked up a second goal later. After two years of injury and inconsistency, Morgan needs a confidence boost headed into the rest of qualifying, especially with Christen Press consistently scoring off the bench in recent U.S. contests—as she did again on Wednesday with a gorgeous goal in the 83rd minute.
There is not one striker on the team that can do what she does.— Sarah (@DasGherkin) February 11, 2016
The U.S.’ next game is against Mexico on Saturday (3pm CT, NBC Live Extra).
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.