Krieger hurt as US women top Dominican 14-0
Determined to avoid another slip-up in a qualifying tournament, the U.S. women's soccer team set records by posting an NFL-like score.
The players would happily give a few of those goals back for a healthy Ali Krieger.
Krieger's right knee injury tempered the United States' 14-0 rout of the Dominican Republic on Friday night in the Americans' opening game of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in London.
''It's probably a serious injury,'' U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. ''By tomorrow we'll know exactly what it is.''
Amy Rodriguez tied a U.S. record with five goals in a game - all in a 30-minute span after she came on as a substitute at the start of the second half. The 14 goals are the most the Americans have ever scored in a game in their 27-year history, topping a pair of 12-0 wins in World Cup qualifying in 1991.
Abby Wambach scored 37 seconds into the match, the first of two goals before she left at halftime, having taken a knock on her left knee that was exacerbated by the artificial surface at the indoor BC Place. Heather O'Reilly added a hat trick for the Americans, who improved to 32-1-1 all-time in qualifying for World Cups and Olympics.
In such a no-contest, Sundhage's first and foremost concern was escaping without a serious injury, but Krieger, a 27-year-old right back who started every game in last year's World Cup, went down on a hard tackle late in the first half. Her teammates gathered around her, putting hands to mouths in obvious concern as trainers ran onto the field.
Krieger was stretchered off, and a large ice pack was wrapped around her knee. She was given crutches, which she used to walk to the locker room at halftime. She was scheduled to have an MRI.
''It's a huge disappointment,'' O'Reilly said. ''Obviously she's been a massive part of this team. I've really loved playing with her on the right side, but it doesn't seem like it's worst case scenario, so that's good. I'm sure she'll be back soon. She's a tough person. I'm confident we'll have her back.''
The injury had no impact on the game at hand. The U.S. scored three times in the first seven minutes and led 7-0 at halftime, having taken 20 shots on goal to their opponents' one.
Yet, at halftime, Wambach implored her teammates to keep scoring, having remembered the disappointment a year ago when the Americans were upset in a qualifying match and nearly missed the World Cup.
''We want to win our group stage,'' Wambach said. ''And in order to win our group stage, it might come down to goal differential, so we needed to take care of business.''
Even the U.S. fans began to feel sympathy for the overmatched Dominicans, cheering loudly when goalkeeper Heidy Salazar would make a save instead of bobbling the rebound to give up another scoring chance. The Americans, who are trying to master Sundhage's new 4-2-3-1 formation, didn't want to let up.
''Obviously the score makes people feel like it wasn't even a competition,'' Wambach said. ''But we as a team feel like we have so many things we need to work on. This is a game that gave us an opportunity to work on some things.''
As the goals kept coming, the U.S. kept celebrating. Sundhage had no qualms with that.
''I'm telling you this: When we score a goal, I'm happy,'' the coach said. ''And I use my body language to tell everybody that I'm happy and I'm proud. It doesn't matter who we play. It doesn't matter how many goals we score. And I think that's contagious, and I want to share my happiness.''
While a victory over a developing team like the Dominican Republic (ranked No. 88 in the world) is still a formality for the U.S. team, getting to the Olympics is not. The Americans had to win a backdoor playoff against Italy to get into last year's World Cup after the loss to Mexico in a qualifying match.
This tournament has a similar format. Two automatic berths will come out of the eight-team field, and Canada, Costa Rica and, of course, Mexico all have the potential to upset the Americans on a given day. And, this time, there is no backdoor playoff.
Sundhage will get to experiment again with her lineup and formation on Sunday in the Americans' second group game against Guatemala. The Guatemalans were overpowered in their opening group game, losing 5-0 to Mexico.
Then comes the much-anticipated rematch with Mexico in the final group game on Tuesday. The winner is expected to finish atop the group and get a more favorable match in the all-important, London-or-bust semifinals.
For now, though, there are lots of goals to celebrate. Rodriguez tied the record held by Wambach, Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers and Tiffeny Milbrett. Her reaction when she heard that her five-spot had tied a record: ''Darn. Now I wish I would have scored one more,'' she said with a laugh.
''Just kidding. I'm happy,'' she said. ''I'm glad we could open this tournament with a big bang.''
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP