Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISIphotos.com
The U.S. women's national team has been a wrecking crew during its run at CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, but there is still one more piece of business to take care of before it can celebrate.
With a win Friday night over Costa Rica (8 p.m., Universal Sports Network, CONCACAF.com), the U.S. women will qualify for this summer's Olympics in London. A slip-up, however, and all of the domination over the last three games will be for nothing. Considering the form of Pia Sundhage's team, that slip-up is highly unlikely.
Behind a balanced attack and an overwhelming possession advantage, the United States has outscored the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico by a 31-0 margin. History is on the Americans' side as well, as defeating Costa Rica en route to qualifying for the Olympics or World Cup has become a regular occurrence in past years.
In 2004, the U.S. women knocked off Costa Rica to qualify for the Olympics in Athens, winning by a 4-0 scoreline. Las Ticas stood in the way of the U.S. women's quest for the 2008 games in Beijing as well, with the United States qualifying via a 3-0 semifinal victory behind two goals from Natasha Kai and one from Heather O'Reilly.
Most recently, it was Costa Rica that the United States defeated in the third-place game in World Cup qualifying in November, 2010, to advance to the playoff series against Italy. In fact, the United States defeated Costa Rica twice in a one-week span during that tournament, once in group play and again in the all-important third-place game, to maintain its quailfying hopes.
In their seven meetings all-time, the United States is 7-0 and hasn't conceded a goal, outscoring Costa Rica 34-0 over that period.
The biggest question mark for the U.S. women is the health of goalkeeper Hope Solo, who is questionable for the match with a quadriceps injury. Should she miss the match, Nicole Barnhart would take her place, though facing Costa Rica would be nothing new for the backup keeper. She was the one that stood between the pipes during the two World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica, posting consecutive clean sheets.
How do you see tonight's game unfolding? Think it matters if Solo plays or not?
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