There was little suspense that the United States women’s national soccer team would soundly defeat Puerto Rico in this final group match of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship on Monday. The fun thing about the Americans’ 10-0 win at Toyota Stadium was watching who and how they’d get the job done.
And no American had more fun than one of the fastest-rising stars in the U.S. Women’s National Team: Crystal Dunn.
Dunn blasted five goals to blaze the trail for the Americans, matching the Long Island native and reigning National Women’s Soccer League MVP’s career total entering the match. Her five goals puts her in rare company, as well, as only seven USWNT players have scored five goals in a single match: Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux.
But Dunn’s dominating performance was padded by her teammates’ offensive onslaught, too. Samantha Mewis, Carli Lloyd, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press peppered Puerto Rico goalkeeper Karly Gustafson with a steady stream of scoring (an own-goal accounted for the remaining goal). At one point in the second half, the U.S. scored three goals in 1:56, making that most likely the fastest trio of goals ever in U.S. Soccer history.
"If I scored five goals in the last fifteen years, that’s a lot of goals … but if I score five goals that’s a problem not with be but the other team,” Dunn said with a laugh. "But this is definitely a special moment. I think for me, personally, going forward my confidence is up and hopefully all our confidence is up and we can move this forward in the next game.”
With a berth already clinched for Friday’s semifinal match in Houston thanks to wins earlier this week over Costa Rica and Mexico, the U.S. women got a chance to rest most of their usual starters. That put the spotlight on a slew of players who were given their first starts of the tournament.
Head coach Jill Ellis made eight changes to the starting lineups that she has used in the first two matches. Alyssa Naeher started in goal instead of Hope Solo, while O’Hara, Emily Sonnett and Jaelene Hinkle started in place of Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn on defense. Mewis, Press, Mallory Pugh and Stephanie McCaffrey also made their first starts in this tournament. It was the first career start for Pugh, Hinkle and Mewis, three newcomers to a USWNT that has seen rapid turnover from the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster.
Dunn kicked things off just six minutes into the match. The midfielder continues to show her versatility and prowess by connecting on a pass from Pugh to open the scoring. It was 17-year-old Pugh’s first assist in international competition as the Colorado teen racks up early career milestones.
Lloyd put the U.S. ahead 2-0 with her 85th international goal, scoring on a penalty kick in the 19th minute. It was the captain’s 22nd goal in her last 17 matches — a streak fitting for the reigning FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year.
Then it was Dunn again, scoring in the 21st minute to put the U.S. ahead 3-0. It marked Dunn’s first multi-goal game for the U.S. women’s national team.
Perhaps the best goal of the night came from O’Hara — for two reasons: it was only her second international career goal — her first came in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final against Japan; more important, O’Hara has proved that when she does score, she does it in style.
O’Hara added her nifty goal in the 44th minute. The veteran defender took a pass from McCaffrey in front of the goal and, with time to assess exactly where Gustafson was stationed, O’Hara deftly clipped the ball with the back of her heel to put the U.S. ahead 4-0.
Then came the furious trio of goals that saw Pugh force in the own-goal in the 60th minute, followed by Dunn’s third goal in the 61st minute and Press’ goal in the 62nd minute. In just under two minutes, the U.S. players padded their stats: It was Dunn’s first career hat trick.
Dunn added her next two goals in the 85th and in the 87th minutes and Mewis added the final U.S. goal in the 90th minute.
The U.S. will likely face Trinidad & Tobago in the semifinal match Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium Friday in Houston. Canada, meanwhile, is the leader in Group B, and needs only a draw against Guatemala Tuesday in Houston to claim first place in Group B.
So far, the tournament is playing out true-to-form, with a U.S. vs. Canada finale still probable. The two finalists in this CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship will earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Costa Rica was up 2-0 until the 79th minute when Maribel Dominguez scored a highlight-reel goal to put Mexico back in the match Monday. The 37-year-old veteran’s bicycle kick from six yards out sent the ball high over Costa Rica goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz, who had no chance at the stop. But Costa Rica will join the U.S. in Houston this weekend.