Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By PABLO MAURER
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Women’s national team paid a visit to RFK stadium on Tuesday night, putting up a touchdown’s worth of goals despite missing several key starters en route to a 7-0 obliteration of Mexico.
“A result like tonight sends a message across the whole squad that nobody’s place is safe in this team,” U.S. coach Tom Sermanni said pitchside after the match. “That’s important for competition and the continuing development of the team.”
Sydney Leroux recorded a hat-trick in the games opening 45 minutes, finishing with four. She was joined by three others on the scoresheet in a comprehensive dismantling of an overwhelmed Mexican side. Leroux was quick to attribute some of her success to her performance in the NWSL, which wrapped its inaugural season just days ago.
“I’ve been feeling confident. I think the league has helped my confidence, given me the confidence to take people on and use my speed,” said an exuberant Leroux after the victory.
Her head coach was full of praise, putting Leroux in legendary company: “To play against her is a real problem as a defender – she’s just nonstop. She’s an amazing physical presence; she’s always in there looking to score goals. She holds the ball up well, and is always involved in the game. She’s a bit like Didier Drogba, you don’t want to play against her because you know you’re going to be in for a tough night.”
The dynamic between the Mexican and American teams, of course, is far different on the Women’s side of the game – where the United States has long been the regional powerhouse – than it is on the men’s side, where both teams have jockeyed for supremacy. Tonight’s 7-0 trouncing wasn’t a fluke; far from it, actually. The seven goal margin was actually only the fourth largest in history – the U.S. women have put up as many as a dozen goals in matches against “El Tri.”
After U.S. forward Abby Wambach opened the scoring in the 11th minute, Leroux tallied the first of her four goals just ten minutes later, easily knocking home a rebound to put the U.S. up by two. Only a minute later, Leroux would once again find the back of the net, opportunistically tapping in another rebound to push the U.S. ahead by two.
Less than eight minutes later, Leroux would strike a third time, darting through the box before cutting back and striking the ball past Mexican keeper Cecilia Santiago. Her hat trick – which came in a nine-minute span – was among the fastest in U.S. history. Improbably, the Boston Breakers forward would score again in the 41st minute, heading home a Lauren Holiday free kick to put the U.S. up by 5 just before halftime.
Defender Rachel Buehler would get in on the mix early on in the second half, scoring a scrappy goal in the box, while forward Morgan Brian (a second half substitute making only her second appearance for the national team) would round out the scoring. Brian, a junior at UVA, was quick to acknowledge her friends and family, many of whom were in attendance.
“My parents are here, my old club coach, and some of my old UVA teammates as well,” a beaming Brian told the media in attendance. “I’m really excited that i got to score in front of this type of a crowd. My parents were pretty loud, honestly. It was hard to miss them.”
Tuesday evening’s victory was more than anything a testament to the national team’s depth, something a confident Wambach was quick to mention after the game.
“I’ve said this for a long time: Our second eleven would get to the semi-finals of any major world championship.”