Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath led the way with two goals each as the Americans booked their place in France next summer
It was only eight years ago that the US almost missed out on the 2011 Womens World Cup due to a shock loss in qualifying. Coming into Sundays Concacaf Womens Tournament semi-final against Jamaica, the players and coach Jill Ellis were keenly aware of what happened in 2010, admitting they talked about it before the tournament started.
But this time around, there was no such suspense for the No1-ranked team in the world. On Sunday, the Americans steamrolled their way past Jamaica, 6-0, and clinched their spot at the 2019 Womens World Cup, giving them the chance to defend their title.
Now, how were clicking at this moment, is a special time for us, said Tobin Heath after the game. Qualifying is a great feeling and qualifying in this way is even better.
It took the Americans just 103 seconds to score. Lindsey Horan fired a shot that Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider palmed away, but Heath collected the rebound for the tap-in.
It took another 13 minutes for Megan Rapinoe to double the USAs lead with an emphatic shot. Abby Dahlkemper launched a ball the length of the field and Rapinoe fired into the roof of the net from the corner of the six-yard box. From there, goals from Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan followed.
Ellis again fielded what has emerged as her starting line-up, the same 4-3-3 she used in the tournaments opening match against Mexico. While the tournament itself has lacked the drama of the 2010 edition, it has marked an end to the experimentation that Ellis has undertaken since the Americans crashed out of the 2016 Rio Olympics in the quarter-finals.
Asked whether this starting XI from the romp past Jamaica would be Elliss first-choice group in France next summer, the coach joked that it was a big-ass crystal to make such a prediction, but the group showed their strength.
The players in this group are players that have gone through the gauntlet in terms of being challenged and showing their quality, Ellis said. They have a lot of depth and a lot of talent. Right now, its about the game thats in front of you. You cant make predictions like that.
Morgan further solidified herself as a starter and continued a tear that has her at 23 goals in her last 23 games for the US. The Americans used her acceleration and pace throughout the tournament to stretch defenses and slip in behind back lines. On Sunday, she scored off a Rapinoe free-kick, coolly slotting the ball through the Jamaican defense. She later added a penalty kick.
Heath also scored a brace, the fifth player to do so at this tournament. Morgan, Rapinoe and Lavelle all scored twice in earlier games while Carli Lloyd scored a hat-trick against Panama.
This whole tournament weve been able to score a lot of different ways and get a lot of players in on goal, Morgan said. The diversity and the way were scoring I dont think weve ever had this many different players on the score sheet in a tournament.
Defensively, the Americans werent tested by the Reggae Girlz, but Crystal Dunn also showed why shes become a staple under Ellis. She started the match at left-back, and once Rose Lavelle came off for defender Emily Sonnett, Dunn moved up to the right-wing where she was a constant threat.
This Concacaf tournament has very much been one of the haves and have-nots. Jamaicas womens team was only reestablished in 2014 after Cedella Marley, Bob Marleys daughter, provided funding. The Jamaica Football Federation had cut funding to its womens program in 2010.
Theyre another level, said Jamaica coach Hue Menzies. Theyre not a level for us. Its something to learn from. Their development and the level they play at, thats where the rest of the world has to catch up. We got to get our players in those types of environments.
With Sundays win, the Americans continued a dominant run through Concacaf. They still only have one loss in a qualifying tournament, the shock 2-1 defeat to Mexico in 2010.
Old rivals Canada wait in the final for the Americans after they recorded a dominant 7-0 win over Panama, but the game is academic with both teams having booked their place in France next summer. Now, past qualifying mistakes will no longer haunt the Americans. They will be at the World Cup and any upsets will have to wait for another tournament.
Were looking forward to playing them, Heath said of Canada. Its always a great rivalry and it will be a good test for us to see where we are against a better opponent.
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