The United States Women’s National Team and Trinidad and Tobago are now just 90 minutes away from qualifying to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in August. The two nations will face each other in the semifinal matchup of the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualification Championship on Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Americans are heavy favorites
The Yanks enter this game as heavy favorites after breezing through the group stages with a perfect (W-D-L) 3-0-0 record. Their offense was on fire as they racked up 16 goals. The United States' defense was solid as they did not allow a single goal in three matches.
This Olympic qualification cycle has had different names on the score sheet for the Americans. Yes Alex Morgan (two goals), captain Carli Lloyd (three goals) and Christen Press (two goals) have scored multiple times for the national team before, and this championship is no different.
Young guns on fire for USWNT
However, 23-year-old forward Crystal Dunn is leading the Americans and the entire tournament in the goal department. In three games, she has scored six times, with five coming against Puerto Rico on Monday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
In addition to Dunn, the midfield is led by three young names. Morgan Brian (22), Lindsey Horan (21) and Sam Mewis (23) are youngsters that have quickly adapted and cemented their place in the USWNT midfield. The dominance of the Americans has not faded as the midfield moves the ball around quickly and gets Morgan or Dunn involved early in the match.
Whenever the midfield does lose the ball, they are quick to recuperate. The defense and goalkeeper Hope Solo have yet to be tested in this tournament. The athleticism of T&T might give the USWNT defense some shaky moments, but due to the veteran leadership of the back line it will most likely not lead to anything.
What does the USWNT need to do to win?
The key to victory for the Stars and Stripes is to spread the field. The Caribbean nation will bunker in for the majority of the match. As a result, Horan, Lloyd and Tobin Heath have to be quick with the ball and move it side to side. By doing that, holes will be created in the defense. Morgan and Dunn are more than capable of capitalizing on the opportunities.
Another key factor to win this match is by getting on the board as early as possible. If Trinidad and Tobago fall behind by a couple of goals early in the game they will be forced to leave their trenches and attack. The more space that T&T leaves in behind, the more that the rapid attack of the United States will capitalize, and they will be on their way to Rio to defend their Olympic title.
T&T not entering in great form
The Caribbean nation has a long shot of defeating the Yanks and qualifying to their first Olympic Games. When Trinidad and Tobago faced Canada in the group stages on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium, they were hammered 6-0. For the entire game, T&T struggled to string together two passes. Their defense attempted to keep up with the Canucks, but the class of the Canadians outshone them.
The Yanks offense is just as powerful as Les Rouges, and if the Caribbean nation puts in the same performance against the USWNT then the match will be over quickly. However, the way to defeat the Americans is through their speed and ability win balls in the air.
In their opener against Guatemala last Thursday, T&T was able to complete the 2-1 comeback because of their athleticism. Every attack T&T has must run at the USWNT defenders. The Caribbean nation cannot be shy about taking shots, because they need all the luck in the world. The more times they can get the ball on net, the better; they need all the help the can get.
Midfielder Kennya Cordner has been the bright spot for the Caribbean nation as she scored three goals in the group stages. T&T will need her to continue her solid play if they are going to have any chance of pulling out the upset on Friday.