US blanks Canada in championship soccer game
VANCOUVER, British Columbia Now Abby Wambach only has Mia Hamm to beat.
The veteran striker scored twice Sunday night, moving into second place on the international scoring list, and the U.S. women’s soccer team beat Canada, 4-0, in the championship game of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
Wambach and Alex Morgan made for a formidable tandem, accounting for all the goals in a game for bragging rights among neighboring rivals. The U.S. and Canada already wrapped up berths in the London Olympics with their semifinal victories Friday.
Wambach’s head-flick provided the assist on Morgan’s goal in the fourth minute, then Morgan assisted in the 24th and 28th as Wambach pushed her career total to 131 goals, one ahead of longtime U.S. captain Kristine Lilly. The 31-year-old forward said last week that it’s only a matter of time before she or Canada’s Christine Sinclair topple Hamm’s record of 158, but that’s still a few years off.
Wambach left for a sub at halftime, but Morgan continued merrily on, scoring her second goal in the 56th.
Wambach and Sinclair started the game tied at 129, but the anticipated head-to-head matchup between two of the game’s greats turned out to be as lopsided as the final score. Sinclair, who had nine goals in her first four games in the tournament, found herself bottled up by U.S. defenders. The better scoring chances were left to Christina Julien, who was twice stymied point-blank by goalkeeper Hope Solo in the first half.
Solo played every minute of the tournament despite a slight pull of her right quadriceps suffered before the second game. The Americans outscored their opponents by a combined score of 38-0 over five games.
The U.S. and Canada were playing for the 50th or 51st time — there’s some disagreement between the two sides over a game that might or might not have taken place in the 1980s — but either way it’s been a series of American domination. Canada has only three wins and five draws, its last victory coming 11 years ago in a tournament in Portugal. Even a sellout crowd of 25,427 at BC Place — the second-largest ever for a Canada home game — failed to rally the underdogs.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage has been trying to get her players to perfect a 4-2-3-1 formation that puts a higher premium on ball movement, but she went with a 4-4-2 on Sunday — and its success will certainly make it an attractive option at the Olympics. Veteran Wambach and up-and-comer Morgan, making her first start of the tournament, played off each other impeccably from the opening whistle.
When Carli Lloyd hit a long ball early in the game, Wambach knew that all she had to do was flick it on to Morgan, who got the ball some 30 yards from the net and used her power and speed to fight off two defenders. Canada’s Candace Chapman did everything but pull Morgan to the ground, but instead it was Chapman who ended up on the turf as Morgan finished off a left-footer from 12 yards.
Morgan then supplied the cross for Wambach’s header to make it 2-0, then collected a rebound and slid the ball to Wambach again for an easy right-footer from 7 yards four minutes later.
A long ball from Lauren Cheney put Morgan in the clear for the only second-half goal.