Written and Media by Tymber Gabbert.
The 2016 Rio Olympics are just around the corner and everyone is out to prove themselves, especially the FIFA Women’s 2015 World Cup Champions.
The United States Women’s National soccer team (WNT) has a target on their backs going into Rio Olympic qualification. The target grew as they defeated Japan 5-2 on July 5, 2015 to earn their third FIFA Women’s World Cup title. As if that wasn’t enough, U.S. WNT goalkeeper Hope Solo, and Midfielder, Carli Lloyd were awarded the Golden Glove and Golden Ball award as they were named best player and best goalkeeper of the tournament. Because of these accomplishments, the USWNT has a reputation to uphold, and they are doing just that during Olympic qualification.
On Feb. 21 the U.S. WNT defeated Canada 2-0 to be named the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying champions.
The CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) is comprised of 41 member associations (27 from the Caribbean, 7 from Central America, 4 from North America, and 3 from South America). Only eight teams play in the tournament and it determines which women’s national teams from the North, Central American and Caribbean region qualify for the Olympic tournament. The top two teams in the tournament qualify for the Olympics, but just knowing they would qualify for the Olympics wasn’t enough for the U.S. WNT. They wanted to win.
The first half proved to be difficult, as they went into the break with a 0-0 draw. When the 53 minute came around, defender Becky Sauerbrunn played a ball into the box where Lindsay Horan was there to finish with her head, allowing the U.S. to take a 1-0 lead. Tobin Heath joined Horan on the score sheet as she added a second goal in the 61 minute with an assist from 17 year old Mallory “Mal” Pugh after she beat her defender with an impressive nutmeg.
Solo only had to make one save throughout the entire match when Canada’s Melissa Tancredi got free in the box and headed the ball towards the near post. Solo was quick to react and sent the ball over the end line for a corner kick.
With this clean sheet, Solo earned career shutout number 95.
The U.S. WNT victory over Canada was their eleventh overall CONCACAF title, with four coming in Olympic qualifying tournaments.
Since their CONCACAF championship win, the U.S. WNT defeated England 1-0 on March 3, France 1-0 on March 6, and Germany 2-1 on March 9. They also defeated Colombia twice, once 7-0 on April 6, then again 3-0 on April 10.
In their first match against Colombia, the WNT defeated their opponent in front of a record crowd of 21,792 in East Hartford, Conn. Allie Long showed her talent as she had two of the United States’ seven goals. Long’s first goal came in the 32 minute as Horan sent a right-footed cross into the penalty area where she was able to head it past Colombia’s goalkeeper Catalina Perez. Defender Julie Johnston assisted Long’s second goal as she headed the ball across the face of goal where Long was there to finish. Lloyd, Crystal Dunn, Pugh, Heath, and Christen Press also added goals to the score sheet, ending the game in a 7-0 win.
On April 10, the U.S. WNT defeated Colombia once again in front of a sold-out crowd in Chester, Pa. Press opened the scoring in the 26 minute after she lofted a cross from Horan over the Colombian goalkeeper. Johnston found herself on the score sheet just before halftime after she finished a free kick by Heath. Heath assisted Johnston a second time in the 79 minute when she hit a low cross across the face of goal where Johnston headed it into the back of the net.
With this 3-0 win, the WNT is undefeated against Colombia with an overall record of 5-0-0 and are currently undefeated in 2016 with a record of 11-0-0.
As the U.S. WNT prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics we can know one thing for sure, their 2015 World Cup title was no accident. They have proven that they are the best in the world.
The U.S. WNT will face Japan in front of a sold out crowd on Thursday, June 2 in Commerce City, Colo. in a 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final rematch.