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USWNT ekes out 1-0 win over Mexico in Olympic qualification

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It took a second-half penalty kick for the United States to go up over a determined Mexico.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The United States came into their second group game of Olympic CONCACAF qualifying with a 5-0 win against Costa Rica and the same starting XI from that game, but it didn't quite work out the same against Mexico.

Starting XI: Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd (c), Tobin Heath; Alex Morgan

The first half was an exercise in frustration and so was the second half, which is almost all the summary you really need for this game.

The first half changed up the game plan from Costa Rica slightly, with Horan, Brian, and Johnston seeming to rotate through defensive mid duties; at the very least, Johnston had to come bail out Horan and Brian a few times before Mexico could pounce on a loose ball in the midfield.

The second half saw Horan allowed to move forward a little more again, just like against Costa Rica, but without much effect. Horan was looking for connections and not quite finding them; the entire team's timing seemed just off, with passes going astray and players unsure of who was coming to the ball and who was making a run. Mexico's defense stayed strong and organized, constantly bodying US players off the ball and breaking up any potential rhythm.

The second half subs didn't really help the team that much, although Christen Press tried when she came on for Crystal Dunn before the half started. She managed a bouncing shot that dinged off the far post in the 52' (Horan also had a shot go off the post in the 77').

Mallory Pugh subbed in for Ali Krieger in the 75' and the team once again moved into a three-back formation while they searched for a goal, but Pugh wasn't particularly effective on the right.

Then in the 79' the ref awarded the US a penalty kick off a questionable handball in the box.

Whether the player was able to swing her hand out of the way in time or not, Carli Lloyd went to the spot. Her first shot was saved by Mexican goalkeeper Ceci Santiago, but Lloyd caught the rebound and scored to make it 1-0.

Head coach Jill Ellis promptly ended the three-back and subbed in Jaelene Hinkle in the 83' for Alex Morgan, possibly hoping that Hinkle would help generate a little more width. No such luck; Hinkle got taken for a ride by Monica Ocampo in the 86' and had to watch as Solo was forced to tip Ocampo's long shot over the bar.

The game ended 1-0, the United States having been stymied through the midfield and limited in their service from wide as well. Their connectivity was practically nonexistent; when Mexico wasn't pressuring them into turning over the ball, they sent bad passes and didn't create space well. Attempts to find Alex Morgan on the run fizzled out. Carli Lloyd was a nonfactor outside of the penalty kick. Morgan Brian's service on free kicks and corner kicks was questionable. No one particularly covered themselves in glory in this game, although Becky Sauerbrunn was as reliable and savvy as ever and Hope Solo was her usual sharp self in patrolling her airspace despite long stretches of action away from the US defensive end.

At the very least, with this win the US is in the semifinals and their last group game against Puerto Rico should allow the coaching staff to rotate players like Carli Lloyd, who has gone two full 90's and probably shouldn't be playing another full 90 just two days after her last game. Puerto Rico has had 15 goals scored on them in two games so now is a good time to see players like Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett, or Stephanie McCaffrey. It would be a good time to get either Ashlyn Harris or Alyssa Naeher a cap as well.

The US plays Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15, at 8:30 PM ET in Frisco, Texas.