Abby Wambach celebrates with Megan Rapinoe after the second of thirteen American goals against Guatemala. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Mexico and the United States beat unheralded adversaries by a total of twenty goals as the favourites moved to 8-0-0 in CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying.
In what's become a theme throughout the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualification tournament, neither the United States nor Mexico faced any challenge as the two favorites romped to victory by a combined score of 20-0.
The Dominican Republic once again decisively proved their position as the worst team in this tournament. Playing some sort of 6-2-2 formation, the Dominicans went down 7-0 to a Mexican team that made nine changes from its match against Guatemala and left almost all of its firepower, including star scorer Maribel Dominguez, on the bench. Forward Anisa Guajardo had a second-half hat trick, while the other goals came by a brace from central defender Jennifer Ruiz and singles by Rosario Saucedo and Marylin Diaz.
The game was never close but the Dominicans at least managed to keep the score tied for more than 20 minutes, in spite of some close shaves: in the very first minute Mexico's Chrystal Martinez headed an Arianna Romero cross fractionally over the crossbar. Martinez also had a goal called back offside in the sixth minute as she was just in ahead of the defensive line when she knocked home a rebound.
Finally, Mexico took the lead on twenty-one minutes when midfielder Marilyn Diaz half-volleyed a lovely pass from distance into the stride of Rosario Saucedo running down the left wing. Saucedo cut into the Dominican area and knocked a right-footed shot past diving Dominican goalkeeper Heidy Salazar.
Mexico had been thoroughly dominating the game but, with all the new blood, struggled for chemistry and spent most of the match jogging on autopilot. Offsides, particularly in the first half, were common. The Dominican Republic had lost none of their individualism or their hoof-and-hope mentality from Friday's game against the United States, and as the Mexicans began to find their stride in front of an enthusiastically supportive crowd the beating turned into a rout.
Only six minutes after Mexico's first goal, Dominican defender Yaquesi Nunez hacked down Saucedo from behind in the box with a lunging challenge. It could have been a red card for an intensely cynical challenge but referee Maria Flores awarded only the penalty, which Marylin Diaz duly put just past Salazar's fingertips into the lower right corner.
In the 38th minute Mexico scored the best goal of the match: central defender Jennifer Ruiz was playing forward aggressively and knocked a quality pass to forward Anisa Guajardo running into the box. Guajardo was being tightly marked by Ana Diaz with the ball coming to her outside foot, but Guajardo stepped over the ball and slipped past a befuddled Diaz to retrieve the pass at a tight angle to goal. With her momentum carrying her over the touchline Guajardo then placed a picture-perfect pass onto a running Ruiz's foot, who had nothing to do but easily tuck the goal past Salazar.
With the game 3-0 at half, Mexico really had no work left against the inept Dominican attack but they kept applying pressure. Anisa Guajardo got herself in all the post-game stories with a fine display of second-half scoring: powerfully right-footing an Arianna Romero cross into the top of the net on 49 minutes, an equally powerful header in the 62nd minute which bounced off Salazar's hand, the bottom of the crossbar, and finally the back of the net, and the final goal of the game in the seventy-fifth minute when she slipped a cheeky little right-footer past a thoroughly dejected Salazar.
In the ninetieth minute, Denny Vargas earned the Dominican Republic's second penalty against when she charged substitute Dinora Garza from behind on the edge of the box. It would have been called almost any other time but Flores just waved play on. Garza was uninjured and everyone just wanted this game to be over.
The second game saw the United States come close to breathing a record they set just two days ago by beating Guatemala 13-0. Guatemala had looked almost like they belonged in this tournament and, at times in the early going, they even dared to muster a few offensive rushes against Hope Solo's goal. However, a contentious goal by Abby Wambach where she was close to being offside but outran her mark put the Americans up 1-0 in the thirteenth minute. Wambach struck again almost instantly on a powerful header that goalkeeper Maricruz Lemus got only a fingertip to before the ball bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
From that point on the disspirited Guatemalans largely ceased to make an effort and the United States ran up the score on a hapless minnow in a way that has become familiar to all of us this tournament.
The game itself is of little interest. Amy Rodriguez picked up where she left off against the Dominican Republic, knocking in a fine Wambach set-up in the thirty-first minute. Lauren Cheney scored and set up her opponents in equal measure, while Megan Rapinoe was omnipresent in the attacking half. American fans will focus on the performance of Sydney Leroux who, coming off the bench in the second half, put five goals past the traumatized Guatemalan defense. Leroux's echoing of Amy Rodriguez's five-goal substitute performance against the Dominican Republic was met with disapproval from the few Canadian supporters in attendance, displeased that the Surrey, BC native joined the American national team after representing Canada at the youth levels.
With the Americans running a +27 goal differential through two games (obviously a tournament best), they play the heavy underdogs Mexico on Tuesday to determine the winner of Group B. Meanwhile, after two such decisive defeats Guatemala and the Dominican Republic will play for what I suppose has to be called pride.