There was an idea that this might be the biggest test of the group for the United States, and it’s a condemnation of Concacaf and various regional federations that it actually was. Costa Rica offered more defense against the United States than Haiti or Panama, but that didn’t mean much when Christen Press tore the roof off in just the fourth minute with this banger.
Then Lindsey Horan made it 2-0 in the 10’ off of a 2-pass sequence starting with Ali Krieger, who took good space up the middle and found Carli Lloyd. Lloyd threaded it for Horan to put her in one-on-one and she finished it adroitly. Krieger was smart in that center back position; she commented after the game against Panama that she was working on her entry passes, and it was apparent from her play.
That was the story of the first 20 minutes; the United States looked much better with their passing, to be expected after having two games to warm up for this one. Carli Lloyd and Christen Press made great runs off the back line, as did Lindsey Horan, while Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, and the pinched high fullbacks applied immediate and constant pressure to keep Costa Rica trapped close to their own goal.
Costa Rica dug in a little bit after that first 20 minutes, though, finally offering some pressure in return and stepping to players making runs at the box. They still had immense problems plugging the leaks between their lines, though, with US player movement opening up passing lanes even when Costa Rica pushed a line of five into the midfield.
The third goal came in the 36’, once again from Christen Press, who was playing like her spot on the team depended on it - a not uncommon level of intensity from her. She dribbled into the box, cut to find a little space, and rocketed the ball into the netting from an angle.
Press picked up where she left off in the second half, staying alert to pick off a pass and create an attacking opportunity. Costa Rica definitely closed ranks defensively, although they also had problems clearing the ball, leading to a lot of congestion in the box.
The US made their first sub in the 55’ as Kelley O’Hara came on for Crystal Dunn. O’Hara went to right back and Emily Sonnett shifted left. O’Hara was productive throughout the half, pouring in plenty of crosses as the US shifted to playing wide rather than through the middle. Multiple scoring opportunities opened up from Press and Lloyd playing in from wide. But it was a set piece that gave them their fourth goal, with Sam Mewis getting a nice touch on a Press free kick in the 63’.
The US made a double sub after that, with Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd coming off for Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe respectively. The front line shifted Press centrally and Heath became the CAM, dropping Horan deeper and bringing Mewis higher.
The US slowed the pace down, absorbing more, particularly as Costa Rica resorted to longer balls to try and play it in over the top. But they couldn’t fend off the US forever, and in the 77’ Jess McDonald finally got on the scoreboard, staying in the right place at the right time to finish off a snap cross from Mewis in front of the goal. Mewis made it six just a few minutes later in the 82’ when her header bounced off the underside of the bar and the ref awarded the goal. Replay showed that the whole ball did not seem to cross the goal line, but without goal line technology or VAR, the players simply had to accept the call.
Press continued her blitz on the goal, going for a half-volley to seal the hat trick in the 86’, but a quick diving save from the goalkeeper kept her out. The game ended with one last chance for Costa Rica off the long ball played in, but Ali Krieger stayed calm under pressure in her own box and cycled the ball out again.
Full time was 6-0, with top performances from Christen Press and Ali Krieger. Carli Lloyd and Lindsey Horan were also feeling it, the two of them creating a lot of problems for Costa Rica with their movement off the ball and timed runs. On the other end of the spectrum, performances from Jess McDonald and Emily Sonnett needed improvement. McDonald in particular was off, her first touch lacking and her runs ineffective. If Andonovski is looking for his rotation options as the team heads into semifinals, he has to be considering that his front three should rely more heavily on Press, Lloyd, and Lynn Williams.
Next up: semifinals! The United States has topped Group A with a whopping +18 goal differential and will face the runner-up from Group B, at this stage likely to be Mexico.
USA vs. Runner-up Group B
Friday, February 7