Q24N SPORTS – Alex Morgan scored off it 12 seconds in and added another goal in the 62nd minute and the U.S. opened CONCACAF qualifying for the Rio Olympics with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica on Wednesday night in Frisco, Texas.
Morgan’s goal was the fastest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying history, and the team said it is believed to be the fastest in U.S. history. It came on a designed play that the team uses off most opening kickoffs.
“We always see it coming,” Morgan said. “It always starts off right, then something goes wrong. This time, nothing went wrong.”
The match was the Americans’ first competitive game since winning the World Cup. They have won three straight Olympic titles and four of the five in women’s soccer.
The U.S. roster features only 13 of the 20 players who were on the World Cup team. Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe are injured, and Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux are pregnant and will miss the Olympics.
Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn also scored first-half goals, and substitute Christen Press scored in the 83rd minute.
“For me, it’s almost a perfect start,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “We were able to check off a lot of boxes.”
In Wednesday’s other Group A opener at Toyota Stadium, Maribel Dominguez scored a hat trick as Mexico routed Puerto Rico 6-0.
Morgan’s first goal was a right-footed volley to the left of goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz from about 13 yards out while being tightly marked on her left side. Lloyd assisted with a jumping header after collecting a long cross lofted in by Lindsey Horan from beyond midfield seconds after the opening kickoff.
Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde said through an interpreter that her team was prepared for a U.S. attack right off the opening kick yet couldn’t prevent the early goal. That disrupted not only the defence, Valverde said, but the whole team.
Morgan’s second-half goal, her 59th career score, was a header just inside the six-yard box off a chipped cross from Lloyd.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was never seriously challenged. She made two saves during the first half on long free kicks.
The U.S. has never lost a qualifying match and is 13-0 against Costa Rica.
The Americans will face Mexico on Saturday and close group play against Puerto Rico on Monday night.
The two top teams in Group A will join the two survivors from Group B, which is being played in Houston. The two semifinal winners in Houston on Feb. 19 will qualify for Rio.
Dominguez scores 3 for Mexico
Maribel Dominguez scored three goals and Mexico defeated Puerto Rico 6-0 to open the CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Nayeli Rangel, Alina Garciamendez and Katlyn Johnson also scored for Mexico against a young Puerto Rico team making its debut in a qualifying tournament.
Mexico earned a spot in last year’s Women’s World Cup, but Las Tricolor was eliminated in the group stage. The team is seeking its second Olympic appearance after first making the field in the 2004 Athens Games.
Dominguez, a veteran forward at 37, scored her opener for Mexico in the 18th minute, with a well-placed shot from the top of the box to the far post. She added her second in the 51st, and her third came late from the penalty spot.
Canada opens Thursday
Canada, ranked 11th in the world by FIFA, begins play Thursday in Houston against No. 89 Guyana, at 8:30 ET, streamed live at CBCsports.ca. or the CBC Sports app.
The top two teams from the tournament will earn spots in the 2016 Rio Olympics.