Four years ago during the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Cancun, Mexico, the U.S. Women’s National Team fell in the semifinal to Mexico by 2-1 score in what is considered one of the biggest upsets in team history. This time around, the American team is focused on not letting history repeat itself.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will host the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship from Oct. 15-26 and while the team has had great success over the past four years, the Americans will have a small bit of unfinished business heading into the tournament.
Goal number one is of course qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but goal number two will be playing a consistent tournament, unlike what happened to the USA four years ago in Cancun, Mexico.
While the U.S. team rolled through group play, defeating Haiti, Guatemala and Costa Rica by a combined 18-0, the squad was not cohesive and the play was uneven. The players were a bit drained after a long Women’s Professional Soccer league season.
In the semifinal in front of a raucous home crowd at Estadio Beta Avila (which is actually a baseball stadium), Mexico played an inspired game to pull off a 2-1 upset and earn an automatic berth to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.
“Since that tournament, it’s always been a good wake-up call for us to never assume anything and know we have to earn everything every time we step on the field,” said current U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis. “While it was unfortunate to be forced to go to the playoff, it worked out that we did qualify and it certainly sharpened our focus that getting out of the CONCACAF region has become more and more challenging.”
The USA’s first and thus far only loss to Mexico, which included a 3rd minute goal from Maribel Dominguez and a 27th minute game-winner from Veronica Perez sandwiched around a Carli Lloyd equalizer, sent the USA into the third-place game where it defeated Costa Rica to earn a two-game playoff against Italy.
The USA prevailed 1-0 in both legs on goals from Alex Morgan and Amy Rodriguez, and of course went on to make the Women’s World Cup Final in a game many pundits agree the USA should have won in regulation. But while suffering the adversity of the playoff likely helped the Americans in their World Cup run, everyone would like to avoid the added drama this time around.
The teams will have a bit more cushion than four years ago when the third-place team made the playoff. This time, the fourth-place finisher heads into the two-game set against the third-place team in South America, but the USA will be taking nothing for granted.
“We all learned a lesson that we don’t want it to get to that point again,” said Lloyd, who is sitting on 51 career goals. “Sometimes you face obstacles and they do make you stronger, but that’s not something we want to happen regularly. This is an interesting qualifying tournament because we haven’t been together that much leading up to it and we’ve got to take these next couple weeks together, as well as the time right before the tournament to really go after it.”
This time around, Guatemala, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago stand in the USA’s way in group play.
- Wednesday, Oct. 15 – USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago – Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan., 7:30 p.m. CT
- Friday, Oct. 17 – USA vs. Guatemala – Toyota Park; Chicago, Ill., 8 p.m. CT
- Monday, Oct. 20 – USA vs. Haiti – RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C., 7:30 ET
“We won’t take any team lightly,” said Lloyd. “We’ve seen what can happen and all these teams are getting stronger and stronger. We need to come into every single game with the mindset to fight and play some great soccer.”