USWNT ready for Trinidad and Tobago in Olympic Qualifying semifinals

160216 WNT vs PUR Gallery19

by TOM SLATER

The odd thing about the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament is that the most important games of the entire tournament are the two semifinal matches.

Win and you not only go to the final, but you ensure that you go to Rio for the 2016 Summer Games. And that makes the final just for a game to see who brings home a trophy.

Four teams will vie for the right Friday to be the two sides in the championship match.

The highly favored United States side plays Trinidad & Tobago in Houston for a 8:30 p.m. match at BVAA Compass Stadium in Houston. In the opening match of the day, Canada (winner of the B Bracket) faces Costa Rica.

Winners play Sunday at 5 p.m. All games will be televised live on NBC Sports.

The United States won their bracket by a combined score of 16-0, including a 10-0 victory over Puerto Rico where the majority of the starters rested. Crystal Dunn made history in that match, scoring five goals, tying a United States record.

Trinidad and Tobago needed a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Guatemala in the bracket opener. After losing big to Canada, 6-0, they clinched a berth in the semifinals by routing Guyana, 5-1. Trinidad and Tobago scored three goals early before coasting to the victory. Kennya Cordner scored twice for the Soca Warriors with Ahkeela Mollon and Mariah Shade also scoring.

Despite the scoring surge on Monday, the Soca Warrriors are coming in as big underdogs. They are ranked 48th in the world and have never qualified for the Olympics or World Cup. On the other hand, the Americans are the world’s top-ranked team, are fresh off a World Cup championship and have won the last three Olympic gold medals.

As for the United States, look for coach Jill Ellis to go back to her starting lineup and rotation against Trinidad and Tobago. Dunn gets the start. Christen Press and young Mallory Pugh will come off the bench as the first two substitutes. Although the third sub in the first was qualifiers was Jaelene Hinkle in the back, Kelley O’Hara may have gotten herself into the rotation with a strong effort and nifty goal against Puerto Rico.

Tobin Heath and Julie Johnston both were holding yellow cards but both were wiped clean after the bracket matches were complete.