Wambach Nods U.S. Women To Seventh CONCACAF Championship

Written by Ian Thomson

CHESTER, Pa. – A hat-trick of Abby Wambach headers in the opening 41 minutes fired the United States to its seventh CONCACAF Women’s Championship title Sunday at the expense of first-time finalist Costa Rica at PPL Park.

Wambach followed her triple with a fourth strike to set a new U.S. record for goals in World Cup qualifiers. Further goals from Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux rounded out a commanding 6-0 win for the Stars and Stripes in this lopsided regional decider.

The consolation for Las Ticas had already been earned – a first appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer after Friday’s penalty shootout win over Trinidad and Tobago.

Costa Rica’s head coach Avedissian Garabet made one change from the semi-final. Cristin Granados replaced Carolina Venegas with Raquel Rodriguez Cedeno pushing into the center-forward role in Garabet’s 4-2-3-1 system.

U.S. head coach Jill Ellis made three changes from Friday’s 3-0 win over Mexico. Veteran striker Wambach replaced Leroux up front. Morgan Brian came in for Tobin Heath in the midfield, and Becky Sauerbrunn started at the back instead of Whitney Engen.

The Americans took fewer than six minutes to breach Mexico’s defense on Friday. It took fewer than four to leave the Costa Ricans reeling. Wambach notched a trademark header on the 6-yard line after Brian gathered a deflected Meghan Klingenberg shot and clipped a deft cross to the near post.

An opportunity for a second goal should have arisen three minutes later when Wambach seemed set to convert Lloyd’s floated ball to the back post. Las Ticas left-back Lixy Rodriguez felled the towering striker with a blatant body check that Mexican referee Lucila Venegas chose to ignore.

Lloyd was the hero Friday with two goals against Mexico. She saw her first effort of the night blocked inside a crowded 6-yard box before bringing a good low save out of Costa Rica goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz on 12 minutes.

The new Houston Dash midfielder was not kept off the score sheet for long. Wambach sent a powerful header toward goal from Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick on 17 minutes, and Lloyd redirected the ball past Diaz from close range.

Chances continued to arrive for the Yanks. Wambach scooped a shot high after another Klingenberg effort was blocked. Lloyd blazed a 10-yard shot into the stand when another goal looked inevitable. Christen Press was off target when she tried to force home a loose ball, and Brian brought another good save out of Diaz.

The third goal arrived on 35 minutes from the forehead of Wambach once again. Lloyd shimmied away from Carol Sanchez on the left of the penalty area before hanging a cross to the back post for the U.S. team’s all-time scoring leader to convert.

Klingenberg thumped a 16-yard shot off the crossbar as the relentless U.S. pressure persisted.

Wambach’s hat-trick was complete four minutes before half-time with another goal that was simplistic in its build-up and execution. Rapinoe fed Lloyd on the left of the penalty area. The veteran midfielder chipped another cross to the back post for the Rochester, New York native to apply the finishing touch from within the 6-yard box.

Costa Rica’s play had been neat throughout the tournament with Wendy Acosta’s pace on the wing troubling her opponents and midfield duo Shirley Cruz and Katherine Alvarado setting the tone with their passing. Yet they were simply no match for an American side that was physically bigger, faster and stronger across the field.

A reprieve for Las Ticas arrived in the second half when the U.S. eased up with the game’s outcome secure.

Wambach set a new U.S. record of 18 World Cup qualifying goals on 71 minutes when substitute Leroux released her in behind the Costa Rican defense. Goalkeeper Diaz had lost her bearings as she backpedalled toward her line, and Wambach coolly chipped the ball into the unguarded net.

Leroux completed the rout two minutes later, rising unchallenged on the 6-yard line to head fellow substitute Heath’s left-wing cross into the River End net.

United States (4-4-1-1): Solo – Klingenberg, Sauerbrunn, Rampone, Krieger – Rapinoe (Heath 57), Holiday, Lloyd, Press (O’Reilly 57) – Brian (Leroux 56) – Wambach

Costa Rica (4-2-3-1): Diaz – L. Rodriguez (Guillen 76), D. Cruz (F. Sanchez 73), C. Sanchez, Saenz (Venegas 46) – S. Cruz, Alvarado – Acosta, Granados, Herrera – Rodriguez Cedeno

Referee: Lucila Venegas (Mexico)

Attendance: 11,625


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Oct. 24, 2014 — Costa Rica Seals Historic Women’s World Cup Berth On Penalty Kicks