USWNT Breezes Past Ticas, Into Olympics

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Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team couldn’t have ended their pre-Olympic run at home on a much higher note.

In the final tune-up before the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next month, the U.S. women breezed by Costa Rica 4-0 on Friday to keep their unbeaten season intact as the USWNT collectively improved their 2016 record to 14-0-1.

Four different American players found the back of the net in front of 12,635 fans at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. Meanwhile Hope and the U.S. defense put forth another flawless effort to secure their 13th shutout of the season, with No. 1 accounting for 11 of them.

Hope Solo

Hope tended the cage for the entire first half, but with the US on top 3-0 by the break, multiple substitutions were made including at goalkeeper. Alyssa Naeher came in for Hope at halftime and played the remainder of the match to secure the team’s third consecutive shutout.

Hope’s previous clean sheet, a 1-0 win over South Africa on July 9, represented her 100th career shutout, making her the first international goalkeeper, man or woman, to hit the century mark. While that outing proved to be a major milestone for Hope, this friendly marked the 50th win for coach Jill Ellis.

“Overall I was really pleased with the simplicity with which we played, but also the effectiveness with which we played,” Ellis said. “I thought we moved the ball really well.”

Forward Crystal Dunn put the first tally on the board, thanks to an assist from defender Meghan Klingenberg in the 15th minute. Klingenberg ran down the left side and bent a cross to Dunn, who struck from close-range for her 10th goal of the year.

Forward Mallory Pugh kept the momentum going, padding the lead with a solo shot in the 22nd minute. The 18-year-old beat her defenders down the left side before using her left foot to hook in her third goal of her rookie season.

“I saw space, so I just took it,” Pugh said. “I just saw the angle to go in and then just that near-post finish. Ever since I started playing, I just like running with the ball if I have space, but I know I’ve definitely tried to work on that near-post finish since I’ve been playing more wide.”

The USWNT kept up their aggressive play through the first half, and eventually pushed their lead to 3-0 before halftime. The third tally came off a set piece as defender Becky Sauerbrunn pinpointed a pass to midfielder Carli Lloyd, who finished with a header into the left side of the net from just beyond the goalie box.

The American women continued to share the wealth in the second half when midfielder Allie Long found forward Christen Press, marking the fourth different scorer of the contest. Sixteen minutes after checking into the game, Press finished on Long’s straight-shot pass for her fifth goal of the year.

The USWNT held on for a 4-0 win, extending its all-time record versus Costa Rica to 14-0-0. The two met earlier this season, with the U.S. walking away with a 5-0 victory, thanks to two goals from forward Alex Morgan and tallies from Lloyd, Dunn and Press.

NEXT UP

The USWNT now looks ahead to the event of the year,  as they head to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

As they seek their fourth straight gold medal, which would also mark a third for Hope personally, the U.S. women open their Olympic group play slate on August 3 against New Zealand. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. ET at the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.

The USWNT is also set to face France on Aug. 6 and Colombia on August 9 to conclude play in Group G.