Wambach second on career goal list as U.S. wins CONCACAF tourney
With a flick of the head, Abby Wambach sent Alex Morgan on a 30-yard run that gave the United States an early lead, the first of three goals resulting from impeccable teamwork between the veteran and the up-and-comer.
There's no question that Wambach, now the second leading goal-scorer in women's soccer, will be at the front of the attack for the U.S. women's soccer team at the London Olympics. The emerging question is whether Morgan should be starting as well.
Wambach and Morgan scored two goals apiece Sunday night in the Americans' 4-0 victory over Canada in the championship game of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, a match that was essentially for bragging rights between two teams that had already earned their berths for the Summer Games.
"I'm not going to lie. I think we play really well together," Wambach said. "Her skill set is completely opposite of mine, and that just makes for a nightmare for any defenses. She's so fast. Not only is she fast, she's so strong on the ball."
Wambach's head-flick provided the assist on Morgan's goal in the fourth minute, then Morgan assisted in the 24th and 28th as Wambach pushed her career total to 131 goals, one ahead of longtime U.S. captain Kristine Lilly. The 31-year-old forward said last week that it's only a matter of time before she or Canada's Christine Sinclair topple Mia Hamm's record of 158, but that's still a few years off.
"Lill emailed me a couple of days ago," Wambach said. "And she says `How about you go ahead and tie me already, and then why don't you go ahead and beat me already? But don't make it a toe-poke, make it a nice goal.' And I think those two goals were great goals for us."
Wambach left for a sub at halftime, but Morgan continued merrily on, scoring her second goal in the 56th after running onto a long ball from Lauren Cheney.
Morgan has become the Americans' super-sub, bringing energy and lightning-fast scoring potential off the bench at last year's World Cup. She'd prefer to start - and she admits she was mad when she sat the entire game against Mexico last week - and she took advantage of a spot in the first 11 on Sunday to show that is perhaps where she belongs.
"If we play tomorrow, I'd say yes," coach Pia Sundhage said. "When we go to Algarve Cup (next month), I don't know. That's the beauty of the team we have right now. We will still change the starting lineup quite a bit. Regardless of who we pick, it will be a good team. But she brought something special today with Abby."
Sundhage has been starting games with a Wambach alone at the top of a 4-2-3-1 formation. Playing Wambach and Morgan together, as the coach did Sunday, makes it a more traditional 4-4-2 - and it worked magic from the opening whistle.
When Carli Lloyd hit a long ball early in the game, Wambach knew that all she had to do was nod it to on to Morgan, who used her power and speed to fight off two defenders. Canada's Candace Chapman did everything but pull Morgan to the ground, but instead it was Chapman who ended up on the turf as Morgan finished off a left-footer from 12 yards.
Morgan then supplied the cross for Wambach's header to make it 2-0, then collected a rebound and slid the ball to Wambach again for an easy right-footer from 7 yards four minutes later.
Wambach and Sinclair started the game tied at 129 goals, but the anticipated head-to-head matchup between two of the game's greats turned out to be as lopsided as the final score. Sinclair, whose nine goals led all scorers in the tournament, found herself bottled up by U.S. defenders. The better scoring chances were left to Christina Julien, who was twice stymied point-blank by goalkeeper Hope Solo in the first half.
Solo played every minute of the tournament despite a slight pull of her right quadriceps suffered before the second game. The Americans outscored their opponents by a combined score of 38-0 over five games.
The U.S. and Canada were playing for the 50th or 51st time - there's some disagreement between the two sides over a game that might or might not have taken place in the 1980s - but either way it's been a series of American domination. Canada has only three wins and five draws, its last victory coming 11 years ago in a tournament in Portugal.
Even a sellout crowd of 25,427 at BC Place - the second-largest ever for a Canada home game - failed to rally the underdogs, who have much work to do to catch up with the Americans before heading to London.
"From what we can see, the naked eye will tell you, there's a bit of a gap there," Canada coach John Herdman said. "We can close that gap. I'm absolutely sure."