Women's World Cup Qualifying: U.S. Beats Costa Rica, Takes Third In CONCACAF Qualifying

American will now play Italy in a two-legged playoff for a spot in 2011 World Cup.

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Women's World Cup Qualifying: Abby Wambach's Brace Keeps U.S. World Cup Hopes Alive

If you were wondering what a Women's World Cup would be like without the U.S. participating, you'll have put those images on hold at least a little longer.

Abby Wambach scored two goals and the U.S. dispatched of Costa Rica 3-0 on Monday to take third in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament and set up a two-legged playoff with Italy for a spot in the 2011 World Cup.

"Italy will be really tough and competitive. We need to play good soccer," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "We can’t only fight, we need to keep possession and keep focused in the defending like we did today. I look at it like today was a warm-up, Italy will be the first half and Chicago will be the second half, and then hopefully we will be all set for the World Cup."

Unlike the match against Mexico, the U.S. got off to a strong start. Lauren Cheney scored the opening goal in the 17th minute. Wambach followed that up in the 33rd minute with a volley off a Lori Lindsey pass. Wambach put the final nail in about five minutes after halftime, scoring her 117th international goal in 147 appearances off a Cheney assist.

"We were confident going into this game," Wambach said. "This was the first leg of the journey we are on. Obviously, it’s not the journey we thought it would be but that doesn’t matter any more. It’s about what we have to do to get to the World Cup and Costa Rica was our first challenge. Not it’s on to Italy."

The U.S. will now face Italy on Nov. 20 in Padova before returning for the home leg in Bridgeview, Ill. on Nov. 27. The aggregate winner will earn a spot in the World Cup.


United States 2-0 Costa Rica: Lauren Cheney Puts USWNT Ahead, Abby Wambach Adds Another

It didn't take long for the USWNT to find the back of the net, as Lauren Cheney started the process for her team of recovering from a massive upset against Mexico.

Cheney's goal was a bit of a gift, as she did not catch her strike cleanly from about 15 yards from goal. Her shot took a deflection off of a defender and rolled slowly into the back of the net thanks to a very early commitment to the ground by Costa Rica's goalkeeper. The United States had got off to a bit of a slow start, failing to create any clear-cut chances, but their early goal, scored inside of 20 minutes, has settled them down considerably.

It was an unfortunate blow for Costa Rica, who were defending well and executing their gameplan to near perfection early on. In the first matchup between these two teams, which the United states won eight days ago, Costa Rica were able to keep a clean sheet for the first 30 minutes. In their match against Canada, which they lost, they performed admirably in keeping a clean sheet for the entire first half. An early goal will certainly cause Costa Rica to alter their initial gameplan which appeared to center around keeping the United States off the scoreboard, rather than attacking them.

In the 33rd minute, the United States added to their lead through a goal from Abby Wambach. Lori Lindsey, who has replaced Megan Rapinoe, who is suspended due to yellow card accumulation, put a great ball into the box that was easily finished by Wambach. The Ticas now have a serious uphill battle to get back into the match.


Women's World Cup Qualifying: Mexico Shocks U.S. In One Of Biggest Upsets Ever

This has not been a good week for women's soccer in the United States.

Not only is negative news surrounding the WPS, but now the U.S. Women's National Team is in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time ever.

The first bit of news, while unfortunate, is not entirely surprising.

The U.S.'s 2-1 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament's semifinal, on the other hand, is so shocking that it registers as one of the biggest upsets in the history of women's soccer.

Simply pointing out that the U.S. was ranked No. 1 in the world and Mexico was No. 22 hardly does the historical significance justice. Coming into the match, the U.S. had gone 24-0-1 against Mexico and outscored their southern neighbors 106-9. The U.S. had been even better during CONCACAF qualifying, having gone 19-0-0 and outscoring their opponents 131-3.

"I think Mexico made us look not so good today," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "They are a very technical team. We tried hard, but we weren’t lucky and Mexico had a good goalkeeper. We couldn’t put away the chances we created and if you can’t do that, you won’t win. The women’s game is so tight nowadays, there are so many good teams out there, that you have to put away your chances."

Mexico, buoyed by their hometown crowd, took the early lead on a 3rd minute goal by Maribel Dominguez. Although Carli Lloyd equalized for the U.S. in the 25th minute, Mexico stormed back ahead on a Veronica Perez goal in the 27th minute.

Just two CONCACAF teams are guaranteed spots in the World Cup, and those will go to Mexico and Canada — who beat Costa Rica in the other semifinal.

In order not to miss the World Cup for the first time, the U.S. will have to beat Costa Rica in the third-place game of the qualifying tournament and then have to advance past Italy in a home-and-home series. The U.S. will visit Italy on Nov. 20 and then host Italy at Toyota Park on Nov. 27.

"Very rarely are we in this situation," Lloyd said. "I think that we all have to regroup. I’ve already stopped thinking about the game and we have to focus on Costa Rica. That’s the biggest thing. We can always say, ‘what if’ but we have to move forward. This will make our group stronger and is going to make us appreciate the ride a bit more. You can never take anything for granted."

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