USWNT Tops Ticas in Stormy Tennessee

Nothing could stop Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team during Round 2 of their Victory Tour in Chattanooga, Tenn.—not Costa Rica, severe thunderstorms or even a broken down bus.

The USWNT arrived in Tennessee from Pittsburgh on Monday and as they went out to train on Tuesday, the team bus broke briefly leaving them stranded. But the USWNT improvised and caught a memorable ride with some great local fans. Then, when Wednesday’s match finally arrived, Hope and Co. had to wait out a weather delay for more than an hour in the first half. But through it all, they still cruised to a 7-2 victory to improve to 2-0 during their Victory Tour campaign.

“This team is resilient,” said midfielder Heather O’Reilly, who netted two goals in the match. “We bounce back through games, through tough moments of games, and in this situation, it was sort of peculiar circumstances that we were able to show our resilience through.”

Hope was back in the starting lineup in Chattanooga, and played the entire first half before being replaced by Alyssa Naeher to start the second half. After pitching a second half shutout against Costa Rica on Sunday in Pittsburgh, she nearly completed a full 90 shutout minutes on Tuesday, but in the 41st minute, Las Ticas broke through to end her scoreless streak.

The play started in the 41st minute when Carolina Venegas pushed the ball deep down the right flank, where she snuck a ball across the frame through the American defense. Hope was protecting the near post, leaving her no chance at the save as she dove back to her right. That goal was the first ever scored by Las Ticas against the USWNT. However, it had little bearing on the final result, as the American women had already built a 6-0 lead at that point.

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Star midfielder Carli Lloyd sparked the flame in the seventh minute, striking a free kick over the Costa Rican wall from 31 yards out to open up the score line. The second score was set up initially by defender Whitney Engen, who placed a ball in the box to Lloyd. The World Cup heroine was looking for goal No. 2, but her shot was saved by Costa Rican goalkeeper Yolian Salas. However, O’Reilly was there to gather the deflection and send it right back into the net.

Then, came the downpour. The lightning and deluge delay lasted 83 minutes, required both sides to go back to their locker rooms, and forced fans to clear out of the stadium.

“I think we were just hoping these bands of storms we were looking at on our phones would at some point abate,” head coach Jill Ellis said of that waiting period.

The storms did eventually pass, but while the lightning stopped, the USWNT kept on striking.

The Americans have only lost twice when veteran forward Abby  Wambach scores a goal and she did just that five minutes after the continuation of play, netting her 184th international goal in minute 18 to make it 3-0. From there, the Americans kept raining down goals. Lloyd then tallied her second goal of the night in the 20th minute to make it 4-0. O’Reilly followed suit with a header in the 23rd minute and an own goal by Costa Rica made it 6-0 just over 30 minutes into the contest.

Just 10 minutes later, the Costa Ricans finally entered the scoring column, breaking Hope’s shutout streak at just short of two full halves. Las Ticas struck again midway through the second half, when Karla Villalobos found the net past Naeher.

However, even that goal couldn’t help the Costa Ricans overcome the USWNT’s dominance. The Americans held a 28-4 shot advantage and tallied 12 more shots on goal than their opponent. In the 81st minute, Alex Morgan converted one of her team’s 14 shots on frame into a late-game insurance goal.

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Before the match, Hope and her teammates were led onto the field by military members, and those in attendance had a moment of silence for the recent tragedy, in which a gunman opened fire at two military bases in Chattanooga. The American women will sign jerseys and auction them off to benefit the Chattanooga Heroes Fund to support the victims of the attack.

“Obviously, Chattanooga’s gone through a trying time,” Wambach said. “I think for us to be able to play here, to give some of the people of this city something to cheer for. We want to be a shining light of positivity. I think that we did that this summer. (It was great) for us to go on this 10-game victory tour to some of these cities that might need the lifting up. The crowd is amazing, even amongst the thunderstorms and the lightning. Huge, huge crowd. Huge cheers. Hopefully, we gave the city of Chattanooga something positive to cheer for.”

NEXT UP

The USWNT will take nearly a month off before resuming their Victory Tour with a pair of matches against Australia on Sept. 17 at Ford Field in Detroit, and then on Sept. 20 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

Hope will be in action on Friday for her National Women’s Soccer League squad, the Seattle Reign FC. The Reign head to Texas to take on the Houston Dash on Aug. 21.

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