The U.S. women’s national soccer team is heading to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro thanks to Friday’s 5-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the semifinals of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament in Houston.
Alex Morgan tallied her third career international hat trick, and Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath each added a first-half goal to power the Americans to their sixth consecutive Olympic Games, where they will seek their fifth gold medal. They became the eighth team to qualify for the 12-team Olympic tournament, which is set to take place in August.
On the heels of its 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup title, the USWNT proved it's still hungry to remain atop the international elite by remaining perfect in qualifying competition.
Following Friday’s win, Team USA congratulated the USWNT:
U.S. Olympic Team @TeamUSA
CONGRATS to the @ussoccer_wnt on QUALIFYING for #Rio2016! 🇺🇸 👏 #GoTeamUSA #RoadToRio https://t.co/EThroWajC92016-2-20 03:23:44
The Americans’ Olympic prospects seemed to be in good shape when Heath set the tone with a crafty goal in the 12th minute on an assist from Mallory Pugh, who at 17 years old was making her second Olympic qualifying start.
Here is a look at Heath’s heroics, per Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports:
Graham Watson @SAEN_Graham
Tobin Heath gets the #USWNT a little closer to Rio. 1-0. #USAvTRI https://t.co/7iiiFK2SIt2016-2-20 01:52:04
Morgan followed with her first of three goals in the 30th minute, scoring on a gentle tap-in on a header assist from Lindsey Horan, who fielded a free kick from Kelley O’Hara.
The goal was Morgan’s 60th in international competition, making her the ninth USWNT player to reach that mark, per ESPN Stats & Info.
CONCACAF captured the exchange and ensuing celebration:
Goal USA - No. 13 Alex MORGAN @alexmorgan13 | @ussoccer_wnt @TTFootballAssoc#CWOQ2016 https://t.co/CYlQyINy4b2016-2-20 02:08:57
Lloyd, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, scored in the 43rd minute, giving the U.S. a 3-0 lead. She has scored in all four Olympic qualifying matches, per Paul Carr of ESPN Stats & Info.
Here is a look at her header off a corner kick, courtesy of Soccer Girl Problems:
Our USWNT absolutely killing it 3-0 at halftime! 🙌🏼⚽️💃🏻 https://t.co/fgf9cUzIHE2016-2-20 02:33:46
And here is a view of Lloyd’s goal from behind the net, showing the ball go right through goalkeeper Kimika Forbes' legs, per Watson:
Graham Watson @SAEN_Graham
Carli Lloyd is just charmed. I mean, she's damn good, but also charmed. 3-0 #USAvTRI https://t.co/aNXgf8n43B2016-2-20 02:21:07
Lloyd’s goal was her 12th in Olympic qualifying competition, per Laura Vecsey of Fox Sports, two shy of Abby Wambach’s record of 14. It also virtually guaranteed the team would win, per Carr:
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
#USWNT has scored 3+ goals in 300 previous games. 294 wins, 3 losses, 3 ties.2016-2-20 02:28:14
Coming out of halftime with a 3-0 lead, Morgan added another two goals in the 70th and 73rd minutes to complete her first hat trick since November 2012 against Ireland, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Here is a look at Morgan’s final goal, courtesy of NBC Olympics:
NBC Olympics @NBCOlympics
.@ussoccer_wnt are RIO BOUND thanks to @alexmorgan13's hat trick! #USAvTRI READ MORE ➡️ https://t.co/ZHmprL50CX https://t.co/bbAf2kBKzU2016-2-20 03:39:46
Perhaps most impressive in Team USA’s ongoing international run is the continued dominance it has displayed despite a slew of roster changes resulting from pregnancies, retirements and other causes since its World Cup title.
The Americans outscored opponents 16-0 in Olympic qualifying group play, added another shutout Friday and will go for the tournament title Sunday against rival Canada.
The USWNT continues to show its will in its wins, which should make it a scary opponent for any of the other 11 teams competing this summer in Brazil.
USWNT coach Jill Ellis was thoroughly impressed with the team’s performance in the first half and believes it’s these types of outings that will be pivotal in Rio, per Fox Soccer:
FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer
"In the first half it was exceptional at times. These are steps for how we want to play and tonight we made a big step forward." -Jill Ellis2016-2-20 04:29:51
She also elaborated on Morgan, saying the striker is “hungry to evolve,” per Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle:
Jose de Jesus Ortiz @OrtizKicks
USWNT coach Jill Ellis discusses Alex Morgan. https://t.co/2pLhweXdaP2016-2-20 03:55:16
Morgan talked about how much of a relief it was to finally secure the Olympic berth, per Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press.
"We finally qualified," Morgan said. "We don't have to talk about qualifying anymore."
Lloyd gave her assessment of what she expects in Sunday’s match against Canada, per Watson.
"I think it’s going to be a great game,” Lloyd said. "I think you’ll see a lot of transition. I think both teams are going to go at one another, so it should be really good. We’ve got to be ready to play and take this one home."