By Joseph White
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON _ The U.S women’s soccer team is winning in a no-win situation. Of course, the Americans should beat Haiti by a bunch of goals. And, of course, the Haitians are going to park themselves in front of their own net to keep the score as respectable as possible.
But the games must take place, part of the mandated ritual to qualify for next summer’s World Cup. The United States completed Part I on Monday night with a predictable 6-0 win over underfunded, awe-struck Haiti to finish unbeaten _ and unscored upon _ in group play in the CONCACAF championship.
“Often times, after tournaments like this, you might want to put these videos in a box and send them off,” said Abby Wambach, who scored twice, “because this is not indicative of the team that we are.”
Wambach increased her world-record tally to 173 international goals. Carli Lloyd, Meghan Klingenberg, Christen Press and Morgan Brian also scored for the Americans, who advanced to the semifinals to be played Friday at the Philadelphia Union’s stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. The top three teams qualify for next year’s World Cup in Canada, while the fourth-place team will face Ecuador in a playoff.
The Americans are the overwhelming favourite to win the tournament, facing mostly small countries where women’s soccer is a low priority. Canada, the other North American powerhouse, isn’t participating because it automatically qualifies for the World Cup as the host nation.
“As soon as we figure out how to play against some of these teams that are going to sit back and bunker against us, the tournament will be over,” Wambach said. “It doesn’t even look pretty.”
The loss eliminated Haiti, which put together a valiant qualifying effort while training in months-long spurts in Indiana. The Haitians are 0-4 overall against the U.S., having lost 10-0 in 1991, 8-0 in 2004 and 5-0 in 2010.
“We’re amateur part-timers competing against full-time pros,” Haiti coach Shek Borkowski said.
And, as if finding quality talent wasn’t challenging enough, Borkowski found his players unprepared for the big stage after their humble preparation.
“Coming here and staying in good hotels and flying everywhere, for them it was just like a big Christmas party,” Borkowski said. “We lack that professional approach to tournaments such as this.”
The talent gap in the tournament is such that there was considerable concern when the U.S. managed only a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the opening match. That was followed by a more comfortable 5-0 rout of Guatemala. In each game _ and again on Monday _ the Americans controlled the action against an underdog that packed the box and hoped to somehow score on a counterattack.
The U.S. outshot the Haitians 20-1, including 12-0 in shots on goal. Ashlyn Harris, getting a rare start in place of Hope Solo, got the shutout without having to make a save _ just as Solo did against Guatemala.
The biggest hiccup along the way has been the sprained ankle for forward Alex Morgan against Guatemala, ruling her out for the rest of the tournament.
World powers such as Japan or Germany will give the U.S. plenty of stiff competition next summer. Meanwhile, its best games might come when the Americans starters play the American reserves. In fact, both teams could probably qualify for the World Cup.
“In practice, when we play 11-a-side, it’s two of the very best teams in the world going at each other for 90 minutes,” Wambach said. “It’s actually really fun soccer to watch. And so from a spectator point of view, I feel bad (about the games in this tournament) because I want people to enjoy what they see.”
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP