Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team sit one victory away from a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and on Friday afternoon they’ll have the chance to book their trip.
The USWNT will take on Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, in a semifinal match of the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. The winner of that match will not only secure a spot in Sunday’s championship match, but also receives an automatic bid for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A victory on Friday would put Team USA through to their sixth consecutive Olympic games. The USWNT has won Olympic Gold at four of the last five Summer Games. Those victories occurred in Atlanta in 1996, Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Hope has been a part of the last two gold medal-winning teams.
In getting this far, the U.S. has dominated the competition in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament. They began their qualification with three games in Group A against Costa Rica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Stars and Stripes won each game, 5-0 over Costa Rica, 1-0 over Mexico and 10-0 over Puerto Rico to advance to the semifinals.
In the opener last Wednesday, Hope secured her 92nd career shutout by parrying away both shots sent her way by Costa Rica in a 5-0 win for the USWNT. On the offensive end, forward Alex Morgan scored the fastest goal in the 31-year history of the USWNT to open the floodgates for the American attack and make it a relatively calm night for No. 1.
The same could not be said for the second game of the tournament on Saturday against Mexico. In that contest, the Americans had a tough time creating opportunities as the Mexican National Team bunkered down in a defensive shell. The close nature of the game — which was knotted at 0-0 for 80 minutes until Carli Lloyd came through with the deciding goal — required Hope to be on top of her game, and she was.
In the 87th minute, shortly after the Lloyd goal put the U.S. on the board, No. 1 faced her toughest test of the tournament thus far and aced it, pushing a low-line drive shot from Mexico’s Monica Ocampo over the crossbar for a save that preserved the 1-0 win. The victory was Hope’s 142nd win in her 188th cap, which are both USWNT records for goalies.
That win also secured the U.S. a berth in the semifinal round of the tournament and earned Hope the night off when they closed group play against Puerto Rico on Monday night. Alyssa Naeher took her place in net and was barely tested as the Stars and Stripes had their attack clicking on all cylinders. The USWNT flooded the Puerto Rican net with 10 goals, including five by forward Crystal Dunn, to secure the 10-0 victory, sweeping group play.
The Americans had advantages in shots – 32-1 and shots on frame – 17-1, and in the process Dunn added her name to a short list of only six other USWNT players that have tallied five goals in one match.
By winning Group A, the U.S. squad set up a matchup with the Trinidad and Tobago team, which finished runner-up in Group B. The game will be the second semifinal game contested on Friday, and will follow a showdown between Group B winner Canada and Group A runner-up Costa Rica. The winner of that game will face the winner of the U.S. vs. T & T game on Sunday in the tournament final.
Friday’s game marks the second time the USWNT has played Trinidad and Tobago in Texas in a little over two months. The two squads last met in San Antonio back on Dec. 10, 2015, where Christen Press logged a hat trick in a 6-0 U.S. win. Lloyd, Morgan and midfielder Lindsey Horan each scored as well in one of the final stops on the USWNT World Cup Victory Tour.
The stakes for each team are significantly higher on Friday night, which should make for a fun and entertaining matchup in Houston.
The match from BBVA Compass Stadium is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. PT and can be seen on NBC Sports Network.
WNT Match Preview: WNT faces Trinidad and Tobago for 2016 Olympic berth (U.S. Soccer.com, Feb. 18, 2016)
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