What's better than a seven-goal win? An eight-goal win of course.
Less than a week after dispatching Russia 7-0, the United States slayed the Russian Bear 8-0 Thursday night in Atlanta, per the U.S. women's national team Twitter account:
Surely, U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni wanted to ensure that his players didn't enter this match with big heads, despite the way in which they handled the Russians in the first matchup.
Although it took a little longer than he would've hoped, the U.S. did eventually create major distance between themselves and Russia, with the difference in class there for all to see.
For a large part of the match, Elena Terekhova's own goal in the 11th minute was the only thing separating the two teams. It was a rather fortuitous goal for the U.S., as well. Whitney Engen got on the end of a corner from Megan Rapinoe. Her shot caromed off the post and bounced into the goal off the Russian midfielder.
Then came a massive second-half surge from the States. In a span of 14 minutes, they added four goals, taking a 5-0 lead.
The first was another own goal, as Ksenia Tsybutovich and Valentina Orlova made a mess of Megan Rapinoe's cross. Neither defender communicated well, and the ball deflected in off Orlova to make it 2-0.
The United States wasted little time in netting their third. One minute after her team's second, Amy Rodriguez lost her marker and got on the end of a brilliant cross from Heather O'Reilly. It was a rather easy finish, but Rodriguez did well off the ball to get into a great position.
Perhaps more impressive, this was Rodriguez's first appearance for the national team since becoming a mother last August:
Abby Wambach made it 4-0 in the 54th minute with the 164th goal of her career to extend her all-time record:
As Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald pointed out, the Rapinoe-to-Wambach connection has resulted in countless goals throughout the years:
In the 65th minute, Rapinoe found herself on the finishing end, making it 5-0 in favor of the Americans. Morgan Brian unleashed a vicious shot, which deflected in off the U.S. midfielder.
The next three goals also came in a cluster, with Lauren Holiday slotting home a penalty in the 81st minute, O'Reilly making it 7-0 in the 83rd and Christen Press capping off the scoring in the 86th minute.
From a U.S. perspective, it's hard to take too much away from this win. Beating anybody 8-0 is impressive, but Russia came in ranked 21st in the world. On the men's side, a ranking like that would be praiseworthy, but in the women's game, the gulf in class between the top teams and everyone else is gigantic.
You would've expected the United States to have dominated these two legs against the Russians, and that's exactly what they did.
The biggest positive is that the U.S. national team looked to be hitting on all cylinders ahead of the Algarve Cup in March. That's a tough competition featuring the best sides in the world, so if the United States aren't at the top of their game, they'll be heading home empty-handed.
They were drawn into a group with Japan, Sweden and Denmark, so they'll need to hit the ground running. Going off Thursday's result, that shouldn't be a problem. The Americans showed a killer instinct that will serve them well going forward. It takes a special kind of team to have a seven-goal lead and work tirelessly to earn an eight-goal lead.
Perhaps there will be a rematch in the Algarve Cup, as the Russians are also making the trip to Portugal. They certainly didn't help themselves out, though, with these two results against the U.S. The tournament at least presents a chance for redemption.
Key Player Grades
Heather O'Reilly, United States: A+
It was good to see Heather O'Reilly score that goal in the 52nd minute. Up to that point in the game, she had done everything on the pitch but score, so she had earned it.
The 29-year-old won Woman of the Match honors after the game:
O'Reilly was a constant threat down the right flank, providing crosses in the center for Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez, while also cutting inside to provide some support for her forwards and drag defenders with her.
Megan Rapinoe, United States: A-
On the other flank, Megan Rapinoe provided another threat to attack Russia from all sides. Rapinoe is usually great, but sometimes she can have her matches where she disappears for a bit.
That wasn't the case on Thursday night, as her set-piece delivery, crossing and runs into the box were all superb. It's no wonder that Wambach can score 164 goals when she's receiving such stellar passes by Rapinoe from out wide.
|United States Grades|
|Hope Solo (off '46)||C+|
|Kelley O'Hara (off '33)||C-|
|Rachel Van Hollebeke||B|
|Ali Krieger (off '62)||B+|
|Morgan Brian (off '68)||B|
|Abby Wambach (off '81)||B+|
|Amy Rodriguez (off '75)||B+|
|Elena Medved (off '85)||C-|
|Ekaterina Dmitrenko (off '88)||C-|
|Elena Morozova (off '46)||C|
|Svetlana Tsidikova (off '56)||C|
|Elena Terekhova (off '70)||D+|
|Ekaterina Pantyukhina (off '68)||C-|