February 13, 2016
SURVIVING A TIGHT ONE
Carli Lloyd converts rebound of her saved PK to lift USA over Mexico into semis in Olympic qualifying
By Michael Lewis
|Carli Lloyd put home a shot of her saved penalty kick in the 80th minute.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
FRISCO, Texas -- Captain Carli Lloyd put in a rebound of her saved penalty kick to lift the United States to a hard-fought 1-0 Group triumph over Mexico and into the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship Saturday.
The win lifted the Americans (2-0-0, six points) into first place in Group A over the Mexicans (1-1-0, three) with one game remaining for each side in group play. The USA meets Puerto Rico, which dropped a 9-0 decision to Costa Rica in the first game of the doubleheader at Toyota Stadium. Mexico faces Costa Rica in what is expected to be the game of the group stage.
Saying that, this encounter wasn't too bad. Mexico played a physical, organized match to hold the world champions at bay.
Mexico was called for a handball in the 79th minute as the USA was awarded a penalty kick.
Lloyd, the goal scoring hero of the last two Olympic gold medal matches, stepped up to take the spot kick. She fired a shot to the left, but goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago blocked the try with her chest. An alert Lloyd raced in and tapped the ball into the net to break the scoreless deadlock.
From just about the opening kickoff the USA attacked and if you did not know any better, you would have thought left back Meghan Klingenberg was a striker and not a defender she overlapped so frequently. That did not result in any shots because she was running at a frenetic pace.
A poor corner kick by Morgan Brian was turned into a scoring opportunity by center back Julie Johnston, whose header by saved by Santiago in the 16th minute.
A minutes later, midfielder Crystal Dunn forced Santiago to make a finger-tip save on her shot from the top right of the box. The ensuing corner kick, however, went for naught.
The Mexicans resorted to some physical play to slow down the American side and that tactic worked in the early going. Striker Alex Morgan, the hero of the 5-0 win over Costa Rica Wednesday, and captain Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, did not get the ball in dangerous situations on many occasions.
The USA controlled possession so much that keeper Hope Solo touched the ball for the first time in the 30th minute, an errant Mexican pass in the American zone.
The Americans were forced to perform with 10 players for several minutes after center back Becky Sauerbrunn had one of her contacts jostled from her eye. She went to the sideline until the lens could be replaced.
Mexico managed to control the ball for several minutes before the USA regained its rhythm and began to push forward.
Lloyd's header off one of Lindsey Horan's many corner kicks went wide right in the 42nd minute. After Dunn was fouled by Nayeli Rangel two minutes later, Lloyd fired a 32-yard direct kick wide left into the crowd.
The USA came tantalizingly close in the 52nd minute when second-half sub Christen Press, who replaced Crystal Dunn, fired a shot off the left point.
The Mexicans finally earned their first corner kick of the game in the 62nd minute, but it went for naught as Monica Ocampo's attempt sailed out of bounds before anyone could get to it.
Two minutes later, the USA tried to snap the scoreless deadlock but Press could not a good handle on the ball in the middle of the box and Heath's shot sailed over the net.
In the 67th, the Americans came close yet again. This time Morgan volleyed a six-yard shot over the net. And two minutes after, Morgan headed another chance over the target.
Horan copied Press in the 76th minute when she zinged a shot off the left post.