Starting the US Women’s Soccer Team’s journey to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, the team wanted to have strong start against their opponent, Costa Rica, in the first round of qualifiers. The team has been to the Olympics in the past six meetings and has won the qualifying tournament for the past four years. Playing on home turf in Frisco, Dallas, home to MLS team, FC Dallas, there must have been an instant sense of comfort under practice-like conditions.
The game started under normal conditions and the announcers were predicting a certain start to the game. One announcer said, “Expectations are that the United States are going to come out fast and furious.” She continued by saying, “They have everything to play for…” She is referring to the fact that the game is a step towards the Olympics. That game was the most competitive game the US Women’s Soccer Team had played since the last World Cup so it was all about getting back into championship-style play. The roster that night only consisted of 13 of the 20 players from that World Cup squad so the experience wasn’t the same all around.
To the fans and commentators, the start of the match looked like a normal aggressive start to a qualifying match. It was an opening kick that started with a short, slightly backwards pass to Ali Krieger. Krieger then sent a long cross field pass to Carli Lloyd who headed it in the direction of Alex Morgan who moving to the net within 50 feet of it. Morgan let the ball bounce once before tapping it in the goal under the goalie’s hands. All that happened in the first 12 seconds of the game.
For the US players, the match started quite familiar to how they start opening kicks in practice. The difference this time is that every piece of the plan fell into place. Alex Morgan said in a press conference where she said, “We always see it coming, it always starts off right but then along the way, something goes wrong but this time nothing went wrong.” It was designed and planned but never perfectly executed until that moment.
Everyone in the stadium that day was lucky to see “Beautiful Football”, as Galeano would have called it in his book. It was a perfect example of team coordination as everyone passed near-perfect passes to one another on the pitch. It was like each member of the team knew where each other was located at all times. Most fans for the national team are used to watching Abby Wambach team up with Morgan but since Wambach retired, that on-field chemistry with Morgan extinguished. Carli Lloyd came out and noted that her on-field training is different from what Morgan had with Wambach but said that “… this pairing is getting better with familiarity.” Everyone was feeling the chemistry that day and it was quite clear that it was heavily rehearsed.
The speed of the goal off an opening kickoff was a record for US soccer and for the CONCACAF, The Confederation of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. The CONCACAF was in charge of the match because teams advance to Rio by making it through a regional tournament which is what this game was. Morgan’s goal propelled the team to a 5-0 victory for the US and was one of two Morgan goals that game.