WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. defeated Haiti 6-0 Monday night to win its group with a perfect nine points and advanced to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament. As was the case in recent games, the U.S. took longer than expected to get into gear, but the Americans pulled away in the second half from an opponent that tired after defending for the whole game.
Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• Take a bow, Meghan Klingenberg. The 26-year-old Houston Dash player appears to have won the left back position for the U.S., and she showed why on Monday with one of the best-struck goals I have ever seen by a USWNT player. That it was Klingenberg’s first international goal made it even more impressive. In a game that was tighter than expected at 2-0, Klingenberg ran onto a ball 25 yards out and hit a one-time rocket that gave Haitian goalkeeper Géralda Saintilus no chance. Klingenberg has had a good tournament, getting up and down the left flank and defending well on the few occasions it has been necessary. Her goal should go on the permanent USWNT highlight reel.
• It’s still hard to know much about this U.S. team’s form. The caliber of the opposition so far hasn’t been world-class, and while the U.S. hasn’t been obliterating teams like it did in the last Olympic qualifying tournament, it’s difficult to have an idea of how much that has to do with the U.S. and how much with the improvement of the other CONCACAF teams. We should get a better idea in Friday’s semifinals (likely opponent: Mexico), when a World Cup berth will be on the line. Haiti put 10 and sometimes 11 players behind the ball on Monday, and that isn’t something that we’ll see from, say, Japan or Germany. But you still come away from the U.S.’ games here thinking there’s another gear that can be reached.
• Christen Press is making a good case to be a starter, even with a full-strength lineup. Given another start by coach Jill Ellis, Press continued her good run of form on the attacking wing, providing dangerous passes and a cutting edge that the U.S. needs. The Americans have a lot of depth in that position, and the competition for starting spots includes Tobin Heath, Sydney Leroux and Heather O’Reilly. (Alex Morgan’s injury absence will create more opportunities for a bit.) Getting her second straight start, Heath wasn’t as influential against Haiti as she had been in the previous game. Leroux was active in a central role as a sub despite not scoring, while O’Reilly had some useful moments off the bench as well. But the way she’s going right now, Press looks like a keeper in the U.S. starting XI.