With World Cup qualification already secured, Sunday's match against Costa Rica had an anticlimactic air about it. But the U.S. women put on an impressive display to take the 2014 CONCACAF title.
John D. Halloran
THE UNITED STATES
October 26, 2014
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women’s national team cruised to a 6-0 victory over Costa Rica Sunday night, securing the 2014 CONCACAF Championship in the process.
The win gave the U.S. its fifth championship in the tournament’s history and came on the back of four Abby Wambach goals as well as tallies by Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux.
Here are three thoughts on the match.
Morgan Brian Opened Up the U.S. Attack
University of Virginia senior Morgan Brian was given her first start of the tournament on Sunday night and she made a notable difference. In the U.S.’s previous four matches, the American attack was stagnant; that wasn’t the case against Costa Rica.
While Brian was technically playing the No. 10 role as the U.S.’s attacking midfielder, she often dropped deep into the U.S. midfield, interchanging with Lloyd. This allowed Lloyd, who started as the U.S.’s No. 8, to overlap early and often into the attack. Lloyd’s contribution in the final third was unmistakable as she finished the night with a goal and two assists.
In the U.S.’s previous matches, Lloyd was not able to join the attack very often because the No. 10 in those matches—Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach—did not come back far enough to allow that interchange to happen.
The only downside to Brian’s excellent performance is that it gives head coach Jill Ellis one more selection headache. If Brian becomes a regular for the U.S. midfield—pushing Wambach and/or Rapinoe permanently into the front line—there’s one less starting position for players like Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Leroux.
Wambach Is Still a Monster in the Box
Much of the talk from U.S. fans over the past year or two has focused on the increasing age and decreasing speed of Wambach, who at 34-years-old is the world’s all-time leader in international goals scored.
Against Costa Rica, Wambach proved that she is still impossible to defend in the box—especially on aerial services. All three of Wambach’s first-half goals, and even her assist to Lloyd, came from headers.
The U.S. may still do better with players like Leroux and Morgan on the field when speed on the counter attack is needed, but there is no one in the world who is as effective at finishing off lofted services in the area as Wambach.
Finally a Complete Performance
Despite the 6-0 scoreline, this match actually felt like a final and Costa Rica—unlike the U.S.’s other opponents in this tournament—actually tried to attack. In the group stage, and in the semifinals, the U.S.’s other opponents simply sat back in a deep shell.
Under the most pressure it has seen in five games—albeit not as much as it will face in the World Cup next year—the U.S. defense did well, limiting Costa Rica’s chances and recovering well when it did make mistakes.
It’s definitely not the level of play the U.S. is sure to see next summer in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, but after a tournament full of sub-par play, it was nice to see the U.S. women finally get the rust out.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.