Fresh off her debut on Dancing with the Stars, Hope Solo was back in goal for the United States Thursday night as the Women’s National Team faced Canada for the second time this week in their post-World Cup Celebration Series. Solo was honored before the match for her 100th career appearance for the national team, reached during the World Cup Semifinal against France on July 13, and named captain for the game. But it was teammate Abby Wambach who stole the show, scoring two goals just seven minutes apart in the second half, en route to a 3-0 victory.
Unlike on Saturday night, the team was in sync on nearly every play, controlling the ball through the midfield and consistently pushing it up top to Wambach. Though the U.S. dominated possession through the first half, and found themselves with numerous chances inside the penalty area, terrific saves by Canadian keeper Karina LeBlanc and a few unlucky bounces off the crossbar on bullets from Megan Rapinoe kept the scoreboard blank at halftime.
It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that they were finally able to capitalize, when Kelley O’Hara, who had come on as a sub for Amy Rodriguez just minutes before, pressured Canada into making an errant pass toward the box. Wambach pounced on the ball, turned and took a shot from the top right side of the box, rifling it toward the far post and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. Then in the 70th minute, O’Hara chased a pass from Lauren Cheney to the end line and crossed the ball in from the edge of the box, setting up a classic Wambach header.
Alex Morgan added a third goal in the 92nd minute, on the final play of the game, poking one in from a perfect position right in front of the goal. The play started with a corner kick from Rapinoe sailing over the box to Tobin Heath along the left flank. Heath passed it back inside, where Lauren Cheney got her head on it and sent it forward for Morgan to just turn and place it in the net. Head coach Pia Sundhage was seen fist-pumping in the air after Morgan’s goal.
Hope Solo played into the second half before exiting to a huge applause from the crowd of over 18,500 at JELD-WEN Field.
The Celebration Series was an opportunity for Sundhage to evaluate all her players in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. Every player from the roster saw the field between the two games, including Heather Mitts, who never saw action in the World Cup but came in in the second half last night and took a hard strike just before the end of the match. Defender Becky Sauerbrunn and central midfielder Lori Lindsey also played extremely well in the team’s new 4-5-1 formation, in the absence of Ali Krieger and Carli Lloyd. On the ESPN2 broadcast, Julie Foudy also indicated that Sundhage will be looking at who else she can bring in for the Olympic roster, and we can expect that magicJack forward Christen Press, WPS Rookie of the Year, will get a strong look.
This appeared to be the final match for the national team before the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers begin January 19, but U.S. Soccer announced last night that the team will play another friendly – this time against Sweden – in Phoenix, AZ in November 19.
In the meantime, keep an eye here for more U.S. and international women’s soccer news throughout the fall. If you’re starving for a Hope Solo fix, you can catch her Monday nights on ABC as she continues to compete on Dancing with the Stars. And if that doesn’t work out, Solo will plenty of time to hone her skills as a forward in EA’s FIFA Soccer ’12, where she’s already shown up Steve Nash. Rematch in November?