The U.S. women's national team will take on rivals Mexico in their second match of the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship on Saturday, a key matchup in Group A.
Both teams cruised to easy wins in their first match, beating Costa Rica and Puerto Rico by five and six goals, respectively, and in all likelihood, Saturday's winners will finish the group stage on top.
The USWNT are favoured to beat El Tricolor and win the Olympic Qualifying tournament, but they can expect heavy resistance from Mexico, who are looking to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2004. Here's everything you need to know about this match:
Date: Saturday, February 13
Time: 4 p.m. ET/9 p.m. GMT
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV Info: NBC Universo
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
The USWNT did exactly what they were expected to do against Costa Rica, cruising to an easy 5-0 win in their first Olympic qualifier and setting up Saturday's big clash with Mexico. Here are the highlights of that win, per the team's official Twitter account:
U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt
WATCH: highlights of #USWNT's 5-0 win vs. CRC on Wed. #RoadToRio Next: #USAvMEX | Feb. 13 | 3pm CT | @LiveExtra https://t.co/1Emu46soiW2/11/2016, 8:25:05 PM
Alex Morgan's early goal ensured the Stars and Stripes would never be troubled by an overmatched Costa Rican team, and the star striker would add a second goal after the break. Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press also got on the board in what turned out to be little more than a warm-up match for the Mexico clash.
El Tricolor actually sit ahead of the USA in the group thanks to a better goal difference―they beat Puerto Rico 6-0―but it hardly matters, as both teams are widely expected to survive Group A and advance to the knockout stages. If Costa Rica and Puerto Rico draw in the other Group A match, the winner will automatically secure qualification.
After the win, Lloyd made it very clear the team has to focus on the task at hand, which could prove tricky:
U.S. Soccer WNT @ussoccer_wnt
First 3pts ✔️. "Now we have to put this one to bed & focus on the next game against Mexico." - @CarliLloyd https://t.co/9SNUYWCbsv2/11/2016, 4:23:36 AM
Per the National Women's Soccer League's official website, Mexico are unbeaten since December, when they lost 6-0 against Brazil, and El Tricolor have conceded just a single goal in that span.
They did well to hold China to a scoreless draw at the Four Nations Tournament, although they finished behind the hosts in the standings because of goal differential.
Manager Leonardo Cuellar has done a fantastic job with a young and inexperienced side, leaning on emerging stars like goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago and defenders Kenti Robles and Christina Murillo.
Nayeli Rangel remains the catalyst of the team, and she found her way onto the scoresheet against Puerto Rico, while veteran Maribel Dominguez bagged a hat trick. Sandra Prusina of 660 NEWS loved watching the 37-year-old play:
Sandra Prusina @sprusina
Three goals for Maribel Dominguez? That should make all women's soccer followers smile. Age is just a number!#CWOQ20162/11/2016, 1:02:16 AM
Dominguez did plenty of damage with her movement against Puerto Rico's inexperienced defence, and she was helped by the fact the defenders would be fooled every time she cut inside. The Stars and Stripes won't make those same mistakes, as coach Jill Ellis will ensure they maintain discipline at all times.
No team in women's football can match the USWNT in terms of raw quality or depth, and with the likes of Lloyd and Dunn wreaking havoc in midfield, Mexico will find it difficult reaching Dominguez, who could find herself isolated against a very solid defensive group.
While El Tricolor should provide the world champions with their toughest test of the group stages, don't expect the result of this match to be close. When these two teams last met in May 2015, the Stars and Stripes cruised to a 5-1 win, and there's little to suggest this time will be any different.