Solo makes history as USA rout Mexico in World Cup qualifying tune-up

Goalkeeper Hope Solo recorded her 72nd shutout for the United States women's national team, breaking Briana Scurry's record.

Russell Isabella/Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

SANDY, Utah —

The United States women’s national team continued its preparations for the qualifying campaign for the 2015 Women’s World Cup with an 8-0 win over Mexico here on Saturday night. It was their penultimate tune-up friendly. A second contest with Mexico on Thursday and 32 days are now all that separates them from the start of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

"Obviously, eight goals is huge for any team going into a qualifying tournament," said USA striker Abby Wambach. "But the best part about this team is that we think we still could play better. We’re just getting into the rhythm. We’re really starting to get comfortable with this formation, the personnel on the field."

The goals came quickly and cheaply as Wambach and Alex Morgan each got two; Whitney Engen, Sydney Leroux and Heather O’Reilly all scored one; and Mexico put one into their own net as well. Goalkeeper Hope Solo, meanwhile, recorded her 72nd shutout for the USA, breaking Briana Scurry’s record.

Mexico had stunned the USA during the 2010 Women’s Gold Cup by beating them 2-1 in the semifinals and relegating the Americans to a home-and-away playoff with Italy to secure the final berth in Germany for the 2011 World Cup. This time around, however, the USA’s dominance was total in front of an announced crowd of 8,849.

A team still learning a new attacking system implement by newish head coach Jill Ellis — stressing overlapping runs up the wing and more possession in the middle of the field — hasn’t quite figured out its optimal passing patterns and movements yet. That didn’t stop them from creating chances in bundles though, especially once they located the wide avenues in Mexico’s masochistically high defensive line.

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With an almost infinite supply of time and space on the ball, the USA wasted plenty of chances but converted more than enough. Their eight goals, in fact, where the most they had gotten in seven months. Over that span, during which Ellis replaced the fired Tom Sermanni, they had never gotten more than four — which happened in their most recent outing, a 4-1 win over Switzerland on Aug. 20. During this time, they had scored just 20 goals in 10 games, which counts as something of a slump by this team’s towering standards.

The Mexicans were more of a danger to their own goal than to that of the USA and got the scoring started early. In the 12th minute, after a series of fruitless American attempts to play through that advanced Mexican defense, Morgan headed a ball into the vacant space. Wambach chased down defender Alina Garciamendez as she sought to clear it. Her pressure unsettled the defender into dinking the ball over her own charging goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago and into the empty net.

On the type of play the USA had been practicing during this week-long camp, Rapinoe sprung Morgan up the left in the 23rd. The pacey striker galloped around her marker and to the back line, where she cut the ball back for Wambach — on the second attempt, after her first was blocked. The world record-holder for international goals coolly cut towards the ball and swept it past Santiago.

Not long thereafter, Carli Lloyd smacked a beautiful volley from a long Meghan Klingenberg cross off the post. It would have been the goal of the night, were it not for the woodwork’s rude interference.

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Never mind that though, because in the 36th, Morgan charged after Bianca Sierra as she ran down a ball towards her own goal. The American shouldered her off it and lifted a lazy ball over Santiago to make it 3-0.

Yet another terrible Mexican turnover then sent Morgan scampering away with the ball. Santiago got a light touch on her cross, but not enough to prevent the ball from skipping to Wambach, who awaited it eagerly and tapped it home for her 170th goal in a USA jersey. She also nodded an unmarked header off the cross bar early in the second half.

The fifth wasn’t long in waiting though and neither was the sixth. The busy Christen Press was played in on the right side of the box by the excellent Lauren Holiday. She squared the ball and Morgan had her second of the night. Then Engen jumped highest on a redirected corner and nodded home as well. Leroux did the same on the corner service from Holiday in the 72th minute for the seventh goal. Three minutes later, O’Reilly got on the score sheet as well when she got to finish on an empty net off a spirited play by Morgan. Leroux might have made it 9-0, but her header came off the post in a scramble.

It was, all in all, the USA’s most straightforward win of the year. More importantly, it also represented the most progress ahead of qualifying. In spite of the resounding final score they put up, the USA walked off the field feeling like they can do better.

"I’m really excited about the things that we’ve shown tonight," said Ellis after the match. "Certainly, we’ve got another level but a good start for sure."