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U.S. Women’s National Team Qualifies for 2012 London Olympics with 3-0 Victory Against Costa Rica

The U.S. Women’s National Team earned goals from Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan to post a 3-0 win against Costa Rica in the semifinals of the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament. The U.S. next faces either Canada or Mexico in the tournament final at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 29, on NBC Sports Network.

© Rick Osentoski/isiphotos.com

IN THE IMAGE: Tobin Heath scored the goal that sent the U.S. to the 2012 Olympic Games, her second of the tournament.

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VANCOUVER, Canada (Jan. 27, 2012) – Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan each scored a goal as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Costa Rica 3-0 in the first semifinal of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament to earn a berth to the 2012 London Olympics.

The U.S. advances to its fifth straight Olympic Games and now looks ahead to the championship game on Sunday as it tries to capture its third straight CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament title. The U.S. will face either Canada or Mexico on Sunday, Jan. 29, in a match that will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET). Fans can also follow the game via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt and via online video at universalsports.com and CONCACAF.com.

“I always say I respect the game and the opposition and this is the proof,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “You can’t take anything for granted. We did score a lot of goals, but Costa Rica, they came out and played well, and played hard. Eventually, we got our three goals, but despite that the first goal came quickly, we struggled a little bit. It became an emotional game more so than a tactical one.”

In the previous three qualifying matches, the USA had scored its first goal within 12 minutes or less, but it took a bit longer this time around. Costa Rica kept the U.S. off the board in the early going until the Americans finally broke through in the 16th minute.

The goal came from a set piece as Lauren Cheney took the corner kick on the right side and connected with Shannon Boxx at the far post. Boxx hit a powerful header into the ground and the ball bounced up, forcing Costa Rica goalkeeper Erika Miranda to make the save. When the ball popped into the air, Heath crashed the net and rose high to head the ball home from close range for the 1-0 lead.

Heath got the start after sitting out the previous two group stage matches. It was Heath’s second goal of the qualifying after tallying in the opener against the Dominican Republic on Jan. 19.

USA goalkeeper Hope Solo had not been challenged much at all throughout the entire tournament, but in a span of less than 10 minutes from the 20th minute through the 29th minute she saw far more action than in the previous three matches combined.

In the 20th minute, Costa Rica’s Fernanda Barrantes had a long-distance strike did not give Solo too much trouble, but she still had to make a solid save. In the 25th minute, Solo had to rush out of her goal to snuff a shot from Raquel Rodriguez and the USA eventually cleared the ball out of harm’s way.

The closest Costa Rica came to scoring during the stretch was in the 27th minute when Karol Sanchez took a shot from more than 30 yards that hit the left post up near the corner. Solo made a full stretch for the ball, but it bounced off the frame and was cleared out of danger by Rachel Buehler. In the 29th minute Katherine Alvarado took an ambitious free kick from that went directly to Solo.

During the first half, Solo had to make four saves while Costa Rica’s Miranda made just two saves as the USA entered halftime with just a 1-0 advantage.

It seemed as if Costa Rica has run itself out in the first half as the USA totally dominated after the break. Lloyd had free kick opportunities just outside the box in the 60th and 70th minutes, but missed wide left on both.

Lloyd was spot on however in the 72nd minute as she notched her sixth goal of the qualifying to make it 2-0. Lloyd, who has scored a goal in every match including a hat trick on Monday against Mexico, finished off the sequence that began with Morgan receiving a ball in the center and finding Wambach to her left. Wambach attempted to chip a left-footed shot over Miranda, who got a slight touch on the ball but it still spun behind her. Costa Rica defender Daniela Cruz cleared the ball off the goal line, but Wambach jumped to head the ball to her right to Lloyd who beat a defender and blasted her shot into the back of the net.

Morgan capped things off with an 89th-minute goal as she did all of the work down the left side while turning the corner against Wendy Acosta. Morgan tried to get the ball toward the net and, but it bounced off a defender. Morgan followed up the deflection and flicked the ball into the net with the outside of her foot past Miranda.

Sundhage gave Kelley O’Hara her first-ever start at right back after she had recorded three assists in her first-ever game at left back during the USA’s win on Jan. 21 against Guatemala. Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe also came into the match in the late going to add some presence on the flanks.

The USA improves to 4-0-0 on the year, outscoring its opponents by a 34-0 margin.

The U.S. also defeated Costa Rica for berths to the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, winning 4-0 in San Jose, Costa Rica, back on March 3, 2004, and 2-0 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on April 9, 2008.

After Sunday’s championship, the U.S. team will go on a short break before regrouping in Frisco, Texas, to prepare for its meeting with New Zealand on Feb. 11 at FC Dallas Stadium (tickets). The match, which pits two 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup participants, will kick off at 3 p.m. CT.

– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
Date: Jan. 27, 2012
Competition: 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament – Semifinal
Venue: BC Place Stadium; Vancouver, Canada
Kickoff: 5 p.m. PT
Attendance: TBD
Weather: Indoors; 72 degrees

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        1 2 3
CRC                        0 0 0

USA – Tobin Heath (Shannon Boxx)    16th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Abby Wambach)     72
USA – Alex Morgan                            89

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 19-Rachel Buehler, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 6-Amy LePeilbet; 9-Heather O’Reilly (8-Amy Rodriguez, 70), 10-Carli Lloyd, 7-Shannon Boxx (15-Megan Rapinoe, 80), 12-Lauren Cheney, 17-Tobin Heath (13-Alex Morgan, 63); 20-Abby Wambach
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 14-Sydney Leroux, 16-Lori Lindsey, 18-Nicole Barnhart
Head coach: Pia Sundhage

CRC: 18-Erika Miranda; 5-Diana Saenz (17-Adriana Venegas, 87), 6-Karol Sanchez, 8-Daniela Cruz, 19-Fabiola Sanchez, 20-Wendy Acosta, 7-Mariela Campos, 16-Katherine Alvarado, 4-Fernanda Barrantes (12-Lixy Rodriguez, 65), 10-Shirley Cruz (capt.) (15-Cristin Granados, 90), 11-Raquel Rodriguez
Subs not used: 1- Julieth Arias, 2-Saudy Rosales, 9-Carolina Venegas, 14-Marianne Ugalde
Not eligible: 3-Yendry Villalobos
Head coach: Karla Aleman

Statistical Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 29 / 10
Shots on Goal: 8 / 7
Saves: 7 / 5
Corner Kicks: 6 / 1
Fouls: 14 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
CRC – Fabiola Sanchez (caution)      4th minute

Referee: Irazema Aguilera (CUB)
Assistant Referee 1: Shirley Perello (HON)
Assistant Referee 2: Patricia Pacheco (SLV)
4th Official: Gillian Martindale (BRB)

Bud Light Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd


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