Photo by John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports Images
By TATE STEINLAGE
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It wasn’t pretty and it certainly lacked polish, but the U.S. Women’s National Team’s road to 2015 World Cup qualification starts with a win.
Abby Wambach scored a decisive header in the 55th minute Wednesday, as the U.S. inched by Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 on a brisk night at Sporting Park.
Alex Morgan assisted Wambach for the 16th time in their illustrious national team careers for the game-winning goal 10 minutes out of halftime. The goal, a mix of excellent dribbling and awareness from Morgan, was the only answer to what was a superb performance from Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Kimika Forbes.
“Obviously I’m pleased that we got three points,” U.S. manager Jill Ellis said after the match. “Credit Trinidad — we don’t see teams that often that sit organized and put so many numbers behind the ball. I thought for us it was an excellent challenge. I thought we created a lot of opportunities and obviously defensively we gave up some big mistakes.
“I think for us it’s literally about regrouping and getting ready. Happy that we got three points (tonight).”
Despite not being in top form, the U.S. (1-0-0, 3 points) salvage a victory in their qualifying opener and quickly jump atop Group 1 with Haiti, who upset Guatemala earlier in the day 1-0. Ellis’ squad will return to action Friday in Chicago against the Haitian side.
The U.S. looked poise to jump on the underdogs from Trinidad & Tobago early, playing an aggressive 4-2-4 which gave the attack plenty of room to operate in and hold the ball. An advantage in possession provided the U.S. with chances — 10 to be exact — but quality service in the final third was hard to come by.
Christen Press nearly put the U.S. on top 14 minutes into the match, but her header was sent right at the goalkeeper. Carli Lloyd found an open look herself in the 39th minute, forcing Forbes into a diving stop, but again the Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper came up huge for her team.
“She (Forbes) was big time tonight, wasn’t she? Player of the game for us for sure,” Trinidad & Tobago manager Randy Waldrum said. “She kept it close and kept us in it. She’s special.”
The consistent pressure finally paid off in the 55th minute. Morgan dribbled by Forbes and patiently picked out Wambach sitting at the back post. The cross was good as the finish, and the U.S. had their first lone goal of the evening.
Wambach threatened to double the lead with a second header in the 68th minute, but her attempt sailed just over the crossbar.
The 1-0 result was likely a bit too close for comfort for the Americans against Trinidad & Tobago, a team that sits way down in the rankings and arrived in the U.S. with precious little funding. The island nation is trying to qualify for its first World Cup.
Waldrum said Trinidad & Tobago couldn’t play as openly on the attack due to the U.S.’s quality. They pressured goalkeeper Hope Solo late, but were unable to find an equalizer after 94 minutes played, resulting in a U.S. win.
“We needed that win. It might not have been pretty but we got it and we move on from this game,” Lauren Holiday said. “Hopefully next game, we’re a little more on and a little better.”
Here are the match highlights: