U.S. women unload on Canada
The match between the U.S. women's national team and Canada at Jeld-Wen Field was hailed as the final match in a celebration tour commemorating the Americans' success in the 2011 World Cup. And oh, was it ever a celebration for the U.S.
After a scoreless first half, the U.S. offense exploded. Abby Wambach scored two goals in seven minutes and Alex Morgan knocked in a stoppage-time goal to give the U.S. a 3-0 win before an announced crowd of 18,570.
'We weren't able to bring back the (World) Cup, but we wanted to make this celebration tour something to celebrate,' Wambach said.
The U.S. controlled the rhythm and the tempo of the match throughout the night. The team was able to push forward and create dangerous chance after dangerous chance.
'Both halves we kept possession,' U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. 'We changed positions and in the second half we created more chances.'
In the first half, U.S. midfielder and former University of Portland star Megan Rapinoe had two stellar chances to put the U.S. up a goal. She just could not get her shots low enough.
In the 34th minute, Rapinoe took a pass from Wambach. As Rapinoe made a run down the right side, Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc left her line. With an open net before her, Rapinoe entered the 6-yard box and fired a right-footed shot. The ball was an inch too high and banged off the cross bar.
"I don't know how you chip a ball into the crossbar from like inside the six, but I did it,' Rapinoe said.
Rapinoe got another chance in the 39th minute. She burst free in the middle and took a booming shot from 25 yards. The ball rose a little too high and a little too fast and again hit the crossbar.
'I thought it was going to drop,' Rapinoe said.
Canada had trouble finding enough open space to get off shots on the U.S. throughout the match. The Canadians took six shots to 21 for the U.S..
Canada's most dangerous chance came in the 48th minute. Midfielder Kelly Parker took the ball down the right side and sent it to striker Christina Julien. When the ball got to her, Julien did not even let it hit the ground. Receiving the pass in the air, she hit a shot off the right post from 10 yards.
The U.S. continued to pour on the offensive pressure. Finally, in the 64th minute, it became too much for Canada to handle.
Midfielder Kelley O'Hara won a ball from a Canadian player on the right side. She had just enough time to center the ball to Wambach.
'I just went into a tackle and kind of tried to direct it toward her,' O'Hara said.
Unmarked at the top of the box, Wambach took a touch and fired a bullet to the top left corner, past a diving Stephanie Labbe.
'The ball popped to my feet,' Wambach said. 'And it kind of ran across my body across the top of the box. I just hit it with my left foot to the back post and it went in.'
Wambach and O'Hara were not done putting on a show.
In the 69th minute, O'Hara chased down a pass from Laura Cheney near the end line on the right side. When she got to the ball, O'Hara sent a beautiful cross into the 6-yard box.
'Laura Cheney played an amazing ball that just slipped through the defense,' O'Hara said. 'So I just put it back post.'
Wambach proved that she owns the 6-yard box. The 5-11 striker let the ball come to her and lunged for it. She knocked the header to the near post. Just like that, the U.S. had a commanding 2-0 lead.
'I just kind of snuck in there at the last minute to get my head on the ball,' Wambach said.
Before the U.S. had even scored a goal, Morgan was sitting on the bench and heard O'Hara call out that the U.S. was going to win 3-0. At that point, Morgan was skeptical.
'I didn't believe her,' Morgan admitted.
When Morgan got into the match in the 77th minute, the score was 2-0. When stoppage time rolled around, Morgan made O'Hara's prediction come to fruition and put an exclamation point on the win.
Cheney got a pass on the right side. She redirected the ball to Morgan, who had streaked into the box unmarked. The ball deflected off a Canadian defender and bounced to Morgan. The 22-year-old striker took a right-footed shot and sent the ball into the back of the net, to the left post.
'I was just fronting the goalkeeper and trying to obstruct her view,' Morgan said. 'And when Cheney shot it, it deflected and I was there to tap it in.'
After the final whistle, the U.S. took a tour around the pitch, joining hands and bowing to the crowd. As the fans roared, the Miley Cyrus song 'Party in the USA' played.
The song hit the exact note with which the U.S. women were hoping to finish 2011.
'You want to finish every season off on a positive note,' Wambach said. 'Winning is a lot more fun. It gives the fans a lot more to cheer about. And scoring goals the way we did tonight gave Portland a good game.'