Even though her team had already secured a place in next summer's World Cup, United States manager Jill Ellis picked close to her strongest team on Sunday, only making three changes from the team that defeated Mexico in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Women's Championship. This team was even more impressive than the one that secured that World Cup bid, crushing a respectable Costa Rica team, 6-0, to become champions of North America.
It took just four minutes for the USWNT to take the lead, with Abby Wambach scoring the first of her four goals on the night. Morgan Brian -- one of the new starters and the only college player in the squad -- assisted the goal with a great cross to the back post following a cleared corner, and Wambach was in perfect position to head in.
Headed goals were the method of scoring for the day, and Carli Lloyd recorded one in the 17th minute. Wambach won a header on a corner kick, flicking towards the goal, and Lloyd redirected the ball past Dinnia Diaz into the back of the net.
By halftime, Wambach had completed her hat trick. Lloyd assisted the next two, and in spectacular fashion. Her run into the left channel and cross for Wambach's second in the 35th minute was gorgeous, and her turn and chip to Wambach six minutes later was even better. By the time the break rolled around, the USWNT were well in control of the match with a 4-0 lead.
Ellis opted to make three substitutions in the 56th minute, giving Heather O'Reilly, Tobin Heath and Sydney Leroux opportunities to impact the game late. The latter two players were directly involved in goals.
Leroux assisted Wambach's fourth, playing a gorgeous through ball in the 71st minute that Wambach ran onto, then chipped over Diaz. Two minutes later, Leroux got on the end of a cross by Heath and headed into the back of the net from eight yards.
The U.S. women started to look a bit more merciful at this point, and concentrated a bit more on keeping the ball than anything else for the rest of the match.
United States: Solo, Klingenberg, Sauerbrunn, Rampone, Krieger, Holiday, Lloyd, Brian (Leroux 56'), Rapinoe (Heath 56'), Wambach, Press (O'Reilly 56')
Goals: Wambach (4', 35', 41', 71'), Lloyd (18'), Leroux (73')
Costa Rica: Diaz, Saenz (Venegas 46'), Sanchez, D. Cruz, L. Rodriguez (Guillen 76'), Granados, Alvarado, Acosta (Sanchez 74'), S. Cruz, Herrera, R. Rodriguez
1. The United States plays up to their competition -- When they've played opponents who weren't up to their level, the United States never looked sharp. Mexico was supposed to be a big step-up in competition in the semifinal, but they opted to rest starters for the third place game and the U.S. played down to their level, just like they did against their group stage opponents. But against Costa Rica? They knew they were playing a high-level opponent, they brought their best, and they won by the score they're supposed to win by.
Las Ticas weren't even that poor. This was just the first truly excellent performance that the USWNT has turned in all tournament.
2. Abby Wambach isn't old yet and can fit into a more technical team -- Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press have been given runs up top over the last 18 months, with two U.S. coaches concerned that Wambach wouldn't still be at her best when the World Cup rolled around and that she was a relic of a team that played a direct 4-4-2. But she doesn't look like she's slowed down at all, and more importantly, she looks perfectly comfortable in a team that wants to keep the ball on the ground and play a possession style. There's no good reason to drop her.
3. Lauren Holiday looks more comfortable with each game -- Throughout this tournament, the lack of a "true No. 6" has been the United States' most pressing issue. If you took a shot every time FOX's commentators said "No. 6" early in the campaign, you'd have gone to the hospital. But after a poor outing against Trinidad and Tobago, Lauren Holiday started to improve, and she's looked more comfortable in her new role with each match. Every other candidate for the job is playing as an attacking midfielder or center back for their club teams, so why can't she fill that No. 6 role going forward?