By Kelly McHugh
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KANSAS CITY, Kan. _ Abby Wambach scored in the 54th minute to help the United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 on Wednesday night in their opening Women’s World Cup qualifying game.
Wambach scored on a header off Alex Morgan’s cross for her record-extending 171st international goal. Hope Solo made one save to push her U.S. record for shutouts to 74.
“It was frustrating,” Wambach said. “We created a lot of chances but their goalie basically stood on her head this game until the end. We just couldn’t break them down. In this tournament, we knew that we were going to be up against teams bunkering back and making things difficult for us in the 18, and we just weren’t on our last bits. We were just a little bit off.”
Trinidad goalkeeper Kimika Forbes made 11 saves and the United States had a 29-7 shots advantage.
“She was big time tonight,” Trinidad coach Randy Waldrym said. “She was the player of the game for us. She kept it close and kept us in it. She’s special. She was fantastic tonight.”
The game was the United States’ first competitive match since Jill Ellis took over as coach.
“I was happy, relieved, thankful that Abby put one away because, at the end of the day, with all those opportunities you need to put one in the net,” Ellis said. “Credit to Trinidad. We don’t see teams that often that sit as organized and put so many numbers behind the ball. I thought it was an excellent challenge for us. We created a lot of opportunities, but defensively gave up some big mistakes. We should have done a better job finishing.”
The Americans are 23-1-0 in Women’s World Cup qualifying. They are 4-0-0 against Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup qualifying and 8-0-0 overall in the series.
“There was definitely relief,” Morgan said about Wambach’s goal and the victory, “but there was also a lot of thinking that we should have had a higher score than that from the beginning. It was great to get that goal, and that was the game-winner at the end of the day, but we should have done better than that.”
The United States and Trinidad and Tobago are in Group A along with Haiti and Guatemala. In the opener at Sporting Park, Haiti beat Guatemala 1-0 on Lindsey Zullo’s goal.
On Friday night in Bridgeview, Illinois, the United States will play Guatemala, and Haiti will face Trinidad and Tobago. On Monday night in Washington, the United States will play Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will face Guatemala.
“Right now, it’s about regrouping, getting ready, and being happy that we have three points in the first match,” Ellis said.
Group B play opens Thursday night at Sporting Park. Jamaica will face Martinique, and Costa Rica will play Mexico.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the CONCACAF semifinals Oct. 24 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The top three teams will qualify for the Women’s World Cup next year in Canada, while the fourth-place team will face Ecuador for a spot.