The U.S. Women’s National Team appeared to still be in top form as the world champions routed Costa Rica 8-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd at Heinz Field in their first match back together since their World Cup victory in July.
The attendance of 44,028 set a record for a national team friendly and was the 10th-most attended U.S. women’s soccer home match of all time. It was also the largest soccer crowd in Pittsburgh history.
“I don’t have to worry about the players getting motivated for these games,” said head coach Jill Ellis. “When they’ve got that much energy in the stands, it’s fantastic. It’s huge.”
Part of the loud and boisterous crowd were the friends, family and supporters of Pine-Richland native Meghan Klingenberg.
“It was wonderful,” Klingenberg said. “Playing with my teammates again is always a blast. I love getting on the field with them. Being in my hometown and hearing 44,000 people here for you is quite incredible.”
Klingenberg gave her fans what they came to see, scoring her third career national team goal and celebrating with a Terrible Towel tossed to her by Ellis afterward.
“Jill kind of waived to me at halftime, because she moved me up to midfield, and she was like, ‘Look at this,’” Klingenberg said. “It was pretty special.”
Christen Press and Heather O’Reilly, players that didn’t get a ton of minutes in the team’s World Cup run, led the way offensively for the U.S. on Sunday.
“Today was a great performance for the team,” said Press. “To come out in front of 44,000 people, give it our all, put some goals in the back of the net and have a good team win.”
Press, playing at forward in the team’s 4-4-2 formation, recorded her second international hat trick and right midfielder Heather O’Reilly had a brace, starting off with her fourth-minute tally.
O’Reilly collected a loose ball down the right wing, made a move around a defender, and took the shot herself, beating Costa Rican goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz on the short side.
The U.S. added on in the 29th minute as Press took advantage of a defensive miscue, grabbing a turnover in the penalty area. Her first shot was blocked, but she got her own rebound and buried it.
Center back Julie Johnston pushed the advantage to 3-0 in the 36th minute as she came forward unmarked and headed home a Megan Rapinoe corner kick.
Press’ second goal, scored in the 45th minute, also came off a Rapinoe corner. Midfielder Shannon Boxx headed Rapinoe’s far post service back into the box and the bounding ball found its way to the feet of Press, who tapped it home.
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris left the game at the half having never faced a shot as the U.S. dominated possession. She was replaced by Hope Solo, who finished off the clean sheet, making three saves in the second half.
Costa Rica seriously threatened very few times. Their first and best scoring chance came in the 50th minute, when Karla Villalobos came in on a breakaway behind the American back line, but Solo came out to challenge and deflected the shot wide.
Las Ticas, as the Costa Rican national team is known, then earned a long free kick and a corner, both of which were just off the mark. A long run by Press flipped the field and shortly thereafter, the U.S. poured on the offense, with Klingenberg, playing in the midfield instead of her usual defensive spot, scoring her crowd-raising goal on a Tobin Heath feed in the 56th minute.
“Nobody ever gives me a run there anymore, but I love it,” Klingenberg said of playing in the midfield. “It was a blast. I love being able to get in those little spaces and turn around defenses, so I’m thankful I got to get up a little today.”
Just three minutes later, Press came close to completing her hat trick, but her open shot from the box hit the crossbar squarely. Luckily for the Americans, it bounced straight to O’Reilly, who banged it in for her second of the game.
In the 62nd minute, yet another corner kick found it’s way into the Costa Rican net as Abby Wambach – on as a 54th-minute substitute – outmuscled two players and headed it back into the box for fellow sub Whitney Engen, who just beat Diaz to the ball for her third national team tally.
Press finished the scoring – and her hat trick – by finishing a passing combination that started with a Christie Rampone takeaway and run down the right side. Rampone found O’Reilly, who quickly moved it to Press, who tucked her 15-yard shot into the top corner.
The Americans will host Costa Rica again on Wednesday, as they continue their 10-match victory tour in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That match has already sold out Finley stadium’s 20,000 seat capacity.
Four more dates have already been announced for the tour, as the USWNT will play Australia on September 17 in Detroit, Michigan and September 20 in Birmingham, Alabama and the will host Brazil in Seattle, Washington on October 21 and in Orlando, Florida on October 25.
Photo credit: US Soccer