Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath
The United States did the usual against Mexico, coming out of the gate already at a gallop. There would be no hesitation with the Olympics at stake, and they had Mexico compressed into their defensive third in about three minutes flat. Rose Lavelle scored in just the 5’, taking a ball dropped off for her by Megan Rapinoe, dancing in the box to open up space, and dropping a very precise ball into the back corner of the net, making it 1-0.
Mexico absolutely did not sit back and turtle up, though. They did have trouble with defensive clearance, but they also added midfield pressure to either try and get the turnover or choke off the passing lane. The US returned the favor, though, playing two-on-one all over the midfield, generating plenty of chances in just the first 10 minutes, leaving Mexico scrambling to clear every time.
In the 14’, Megan Rapinoe stood over a corner kick. The ball bounced past Julie Ertz, and right to the foot of Sam Mewis, who one-timed it to loop under the bar and make it 2-0.
The second goal didn’t take the wind out of Mexico’s sails either, though. They continued progressing the ball through their lines and took advantage of space left behind as the US pressed high, taking off and forcing the US midfield to recover in their wake, ultimately earning a corner. As the US moved their attack out towards the wings, Mexico also kept a tighter lock on O’Hara on the right, although they didn’t have as much success trying to contain Dunn on the left. They also looked to stop Lloyd from dropping off the center back’s shoulder, although Lloyd did break through a few times.
Mexico’s best chance came in the 42’ off a corner kick that wobbled through everyone in front of goal, forcing Naeher to rush off her line to smother the ball. The US continued to push through the width of the field to the end, with Heath and O’Hara playing nicely with the space they created through their movement and using the timing of their passes to put defenders off balance. But after the first two goals, the chances from lobbing in crosses weren’t being converted.
The US came out in the second half with no changes and some of the same problems. Lloyd was ineffective in front of goal, Rapinoe’s service wasn’t hitting targets, and Heath was wasn’t beating her defenders. Mexico kept pushing and put a ball on frame in the 52’, calling for Naeher to once again smother it.
The US kept trying to take advantage of wider spaces, hoping to put someone in behind with a cross, but the finishing wasn’t happening. Finally, the third goal came in the 67’ from a trick set play. Rapinoe faked her run on a free kick and Mewis followed through, hitting a laser-guided low ball into the net. The US made two subs immediately after, putting on Christen Press and Lynn Williams for Heath and Rapinoe.
Press and Williams were the espresso shot the team needed. Dunn made Press her target in the box, leading to a chance on a header in the 71’. Press would not be deterred, scoring two minutes later as she cut in on the right and shot hard. The ball deflected back to her, and so she chipped the keeper from right inside the box to make it 4-0.
EVERY GOAL TODAY HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE.— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) February 8, 2020
CHRISTEN PRESS OUT HERE STILL ON pic.twitter.com/wwfYpNmymX
The team made their third sub in the 77’, with Lindsey Horan coming on for Rose Lavelle. Mexico was still trying to push into the US defensive third, but with Horan in midfield and Press and Williams on the wings, the US was playing even more quickly through a lot of space. Williams attacked the box repeatedly in the last minutes of the game, finding Lloyd far post in the 89’. Lloyd made the unselfish play and tried to chip the ball back for someone to crash with a header, but there were no takers. The game ended at 4-0, although certainly the scoreline gap could have been much wider with a little more finishing from the starting front line.
With this win, the United States has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Up next: they play Canada in the final for bragging rights.