CONCACAF Olympic qualifying

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USWNT guarding against letdown with Olympic berth on line

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Carson, Calif. — The United States isn’t really motivated by what happened four years ago in the Rio Games as the team heads into an all-important Olympic qualifying match Friday night.

Coming off a World Cup championship in France last summer, the United States just wants to guard against any letdown.

Christen Press said it’s difficult after all the attention that comes in the wake of winning soccer’s premier tournament to transition so quickly to preparation for the Olympics.

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“I think that the mentality the group that was a part of 2015 and 2016 is bringing into this transition is that we have to have a short memory,” she said. “We have to let go of the World Cup and we have to go into this like this is our big tournament for the next three years. And so I think that that’s a good lesson to have learned.”

The United States had also won the World Cup in 2015 and went into the Rio Games brimming with confidence – only to be ousted in the quarterfinals by Sweden. It was the U.S. team’s earliest ever exit from the Olympics.

On Friday, the top-ranked United States will play Mexico in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament with one of the region’s two berths in the Tokyo Games on the line. Canada faces Costa Rica for the other spot.

The U.S. and Canada won the Olympic berths four years ago. The Canadians went on to win their second consecutive bronze medal in Brazil.

Canada is led by captain Christine Sinclair, who surpassed retired U.S. star Abby Wambach’s international goals record in the group stage. Sinclair, who has been on the national team since 2000, has 186 career goals heading into the semifinals. That’s the most among men or women.

Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said it was important that his team avoids complacency during qualifying. And indeed, the team swept group stage play without conceding a goal.

“No matter who we play, we need to play to Canadian standard. It has to be our level of performance that we play to. It’s so easy to play a team that you’re better than, and then drop to their level,” he said.

By winning its group handily, eighth-ranked Canada avoided facing the United States in the semis. Costa Rica, ranked No. 37 in the world, has never made the 12-team field for the Olympics, although Las Ticas did play in the 2015 World Cup.

The Canadians are undefeated in 13 previous meetings with Costa Rica. In the 2016 qualifying tournament, Canada defeated Las Ticas 3-1 in the semifinals.

“It was a close match. It was a match where we made many mistakes, but it is in the past,” Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde said. “We’re focusing on right here, right now.”

Mexico, ranked No. 26, made the field for the 2004 Olympics but has not been back since. However, Mexico is on the rise, boosted by a domestic women’s league. The team won its first two group-stage matches before falling 2-0 to Canada.

Like Canada, the United States swept its group stage matches without allowing a goal. Lindsey Horan led the way with five goals and Press added four.

U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle emphasized that the team can’t get ahead of itself.

“I think that we know that what we did in France is kind of meaningless now. It doesn’t dictate how the rest of the year goes or dictate right now what our future is,” she said. “So while last year was so fun, we know that we have to set our sights on new goals. And I think before we even talk about the Olympics, we have to talk about our game versus Mexico and qualifying there.”

Mexico falls to Canada, will meet USWNT for Olympic berth

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Mexico is the final obstacle between the USWNT and another trip to the Olympics.

Canada defeated Mexico 2-0 on Tuesday to win CONCACAF Olympic qualifying Group B and earn a semifinal scrap with Costa Rica.

The Yanks will meet Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Friday in the semifinal stage after cruising through Group A.

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New international goals record holder Christine Sinclair scored to stretch the standard to 186, while defender Shelina Zadorsky scored her second.

Mexico’s improved a great deal in recent seasons, but lost to the USMNT 3-0 on May 26, 2019.

The semifinal winners meet Sunday in the final, both having clinched places in Tokyo.

Sinclair broke Abby Wambach’s record on Jan. 29.

USWNT wins Olympic qualifying group with Costa Rica rout (video)

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The United States women’s national team played its final dress rehearsal.

Now it has to win.

The USWNT beat Costa Rica 6-0 on Monday in the final group stage match of Olympic qualifying, setting up a Friday night semifinal versus Canada or Mexico.

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The two winners of the semifinals go to the Olympics regardless of who wins the final. The losers don’t even get a set of steak knives.

Christen Press and Sam Mewis scored twice, with Lindsey Horan and Jessica McDonald also scoring in the blowout.

Press’ goal was her 55th with the national team, one shy of the all-time Top Ten.

The Yanks had already qualified for the semifinal stage by beating Haiti 4-0 and clobbering Panama 8-0.

The math says 18-0 over three matches.

Now they’ll await the loser of Wednesday nights’s Group B decider between Canada and Mexico.

A draw would mean Mexico, as Canada has outscored its foes 20-0 and presents a much more significant obstacle to Tokyo.

USWNT Olympic Qualifying preview: Avoiding a historic hiccup

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The United States women’s national team is a World Cup monster, but it’s would like to put its Olympic standing back on a perch.

The U.S. didn’t find the podium in 2016, finishing in fifth place at the Games in Rio. The USWNT has four gold medals and a silver in the previous five tournaments.

The path to putting another bullet point on the Yanks’ incredible run begins Tuesday with what should be a comfortable if not audacious defeat of Haiti.

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Vlatko Andonovski’s first serious fixtures as USWNT boss include group stage dates against Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica. All matches take place in Houston and it would be stunning if the Yanks lost any of them.

The USWNT hasn’t lost in over a year, their last set back coming in a 3-1 loss to France in Le Havre on Jan. 19, 2019.

Andonovski oversaw a 6-0 defeat of Costa Rica in November. The other opponents are far off the pace of Costa Rica, the No. 34 team in the FIFA Rankings. Haiti is No. 63, Panama No. 69.

The top two teams in each group make the knockout rounds. Should the U.S. follow the script, it’ll meet Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, or Saint Kitts and Nevis in the semifinal. The winner of each semifinal qualifies for the summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Ego aside, the challenge of following this tournament is that it’s about how the U.S. looks more than any mystery of result. Are the players bought into Andonovski’s style and tactics? How effective is his plan to keep the U.S. on top of the women’s game?

Andonovski left five World Cup winners off his roster for qualifying: Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson. Morgan is pregnant while Davidson is carrying an injury.

The USWNT will have one more meaningful tournament before the Olympics, March’s SheBelieves Cup.

U.S. U-23 men learn group opponents for Olympic qualifying

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The United States knows the opponents on its path to a first men’s Olympic berth since 2008.

Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica will be the Yanks’ group stage opponents between March 20-26 in Mexico.

Honduras, Haiti, Canada, and El Salvador comprise Group B.

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Jason Kreis’ U-23 side will need to finish first or second in its group and then win its semifinal to clinch a spot in Tokyo 2020.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Richie Ledezma, and Jonathan Lewis were in Kreis’ last group of call-ups, while players like Miles Robinson, Josh Sargent, and Timothy Weah are among the eligible.

Andreas Herzog’s Yanks cruised through group play in 2015 before being stunned by Honduras in the semi, then losing a two-legged playoff with Colombia.

The U.S. didn’t even escape the group stage in 2012 under Caleb Porter.

Women’s qualifying begins Jan. 28 in the United States, the ladies facing Costa Rica, Panama, and Haiti in group play.