CHESTER, Pa. — The U.S. saved its best performance for last at the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, blasting Costa Rica 6-0 in Sunday’s final at PPL Park. With a sharpness that was palpable from the start, the U.S. consistently found the head of Abby Wambach, with three of her four goals coming from positions where her size made the Costa Rican defenders look like Lilliputians.
Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• At 34, Wambach is still a force of nature. There were questions after U.S. coach Jill Ellis elected not to start Wambach in Friday’s World Cup berth-clincher, the biggest U.S. game since the 2012 Olympics. But Wambach played with a vengeance from the start on Sunday, scoring three times in the first half (all on headers) and, just to show she could, on a gorgeous, delicate chip over goalkeeper Dinnia Díaz in the second half. Wambach now has 177 career international goals, more than anyone else in the history of the sport, and she may well break 200 by the time she’s done. She has clearly reached a point where the "Wambach headed goal" has become a defining athletic signature, like the Fosbury Flop or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook. Honestly, she’s a national treasure.
• How will the U.S. line up at Canada 2015? Some things may change between now and the start of the World Cup next June, but here’s my best guess at the starting lineup Ellis would use in a World Cup final if everyone is healthy: Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Carli Lloyd, Lauren Holiday, Megan Rapinoe; Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Christen Press. With the attacking depth the U.S. has, it will be a battle royale for playing time in the front six with players like Sydney Leroux and Tobin Heath making a case as well. Then again, it’s rare for everyone to be healthy and depth will be paramount with a team having to play seven games to win this World Cup.
• Other thoughts to ponder about the USWNT over the next several months: Is there any chance Ellis will want to push Holiday upfield and use her in her ideal No. 10 position while adding more steel in the defensive midfield to protect against elite counter-attacking teams? … Alex Morgan’s sprained left ankle is supposed to heal in four to six weeks. The only question is: After two significant injuries to the same ankle in 2014, can Morgan go without one in 2015? If so, this could be her World Cup … Is there any chance a youngster could break into the lineup? Unlikely, but keep an eye on Morgan Brian, the University of Virginia midfielder who got sizable playing time in this tournament, including a start on Sunday. She’s promising, and Ellis is high on her … Whither Hope Solo? The U.S. goalkeeper didn’t concede a goal all tournament, but she has a lot going on with her upcoming family violence court date next month.