Alex Morgan leads the USA celebration after the team qualified for the Women’s World Cup. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
FRISCO, Texas — Scoring early and often, the United States lived up to its billing as defending world champions and the top-ranked women’s soccer team on the planet Sunday night.
The Americans clinched a berth in the Women’s World Cup for the eighth consecutive time with an emphatic 6-0 semifinal victory over Jamaica in the 2018 concacaf Women’s Championship at Toyota Stadium.
The U.S. will meet Canada, 7-0 victors over Panama in the opening match of the doubleheader, for confederation supremacy and glory here Wednesday night. The Reggae Girlz and Los Canaleros will tussle for a spot at the 2019 world championship in France in the third-place match Wednesday night.
“Just because we qualified for the World Cup doesn’t mean we’re going to take our foot off the gas,” said striker Alex Morgan, who scored twice. “We want to win this tournament and we always think of playing Canada as an important game for us.
“This is obviously going to be a different change of pace for us in this tournament because we haven’t faced a lot of shots from other teams, from opponents. But I think it will be good for us. We want to play the best teams in the world and Canada’s continuing to evolve and play well.”
The Americans are one of a handful of countries that have qualified for all eight Women’s World Cups, having paraded with the trophy three times — 1991, 1999 and 2015.
“It feels really good,” USA head coach Jill Ellis said. “The players tonight we excited to start a new journey.”
That would be to France at the eighth Women’s World Cup, which kicks off June 7 and culminates with the championship game July 7.
On Sunday night, the Americans looked like champions and a formidable side to be reckoned with in France come next June.
They outshot the Caribbean side, 26-3, and had 17 shots on goal compared to none for Jamaica.
Through four matches, the USA has outshot the opposition, 143-10. In fact, the Americans have scored more goals (24) than shots allowed (10).
“They’re another level,” Canada head coach Hue Menzies said. “That is something we can learn from.”
Tobin Heath and Morgan led the assault with two goals apeice, while Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz added one apiece in front of a rain-soaked crowd of 7,555.
“We talked about qualifying but also how we qualify, how we play,” Ellis said. “It doesn’t really matter who we are playing. It’s really about challenging ourselves to get better in every game.”
Most of the encounter was played in the Jamaican half of the field with the Caribbean side rarely getting the ball for any substantial possession time, let alone a shot on goal. Khadija Shaw was credited with Jamaica’s lone shot on goal in the opening half, which was blocked in the fifth minute.
For the fourth consecutive CWC match, the U.S. scored inside of 10 minutes to take the lead. After Jamaica captain Konya Plummer headed away an attempt, the ball fell to Lindsey Horan, who fired a shot from atop the box. Goalkeeper Sydney Schneider dove to her left to deny the midfielder, but left the rebound for Heath, who powered a seven-yard shot home in the ninth minute.
The hosts made it 2-0 in the 15th minute on a spectacular goal. Right back Abby Dahlkemper, only steps from the midfield line, pin-pointed a 50-yard diagonal pass to Rapinoe, who chested the ball down. Rapinoe raced into the area before drilling a seven-yard shot home from the left side.
The USA added another precision goal in the 21st minute as Ertz passed to overlapping left back Crystal Dunn, who brought the ball into the corner. She passed to a streaking Ertz, who headed it in from two yards for a 3-0 advantage.
Heath hit a brace in the 29th minute as she hammered home Horan’s long pass from seven yards for a four-goal margin before AMorgan tallied her 95th international goal by connecting on Rapinoe’s free kick in the 33rd minute for a 5-0 halftime lead.
“We feel good right now. Like I said, the competition has not been very good, so we have to take it with a grain of salt,” Rapinoe said. “I think we’re moving the ball quicker, not hanging on to it too long, sharing it, a bunch of different people are scoring. We got a lot of different kind of goals today, too. It’s clicking right now. It’s pretty good.”
Canada 7, Panama 0