CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Samantha Mewis’ goal on a blistering free kick in the second half against Mexico left no doubt that the United States was on its way to the Olympics.
Mewis scored twice and the U.S. national team secured its place in Tokyo this summer with a 4-0 semifinal victory Friday night in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.
“I hope so,” she said about her statement-making goal putting the U.S. firmly in control. “There were ups and downs in the game. I thought Mexico played really well, they did a great job and they were a hard team to beat. I think every time we were able to score it helped us kind of reset ourselves.”
Rose Lavelle and Christen Press also scored for the United States, which extended its unbeaten streak to 27 games.
The United States will face Canada in the tournament’s title game on Sunday. Canada earned the region’s other Olympic berth with a 1-0 victory over surprisingly resilient Costa Rica 1-0 in the earlier match Friday.
Canada has finished as runner up to the United States in the last three qualifying tournaments.
“Canada is always a really hard team, we obviously have a big rivalry with them and of course they’re playing well defensively — and offensively. So it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re excited for the challenge,” Mewis said.
The top-ranked U.S. team is coming off a victory in the World Cup last summer in France. It was the team’s fourth title in soccer’s premier tournament.
The United States has made the field for every Olympics since soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, and has won the gold medal four times. But the Americans were eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil for the team’s earliest exit in the tournament.
“Coming into this game we had the same attitude as the game before and the game before. And that attitude is not going to change going forward: Every game that we go into is going to be the most important, whether its a qualifying tournament or a friendly game, or any game that we have in front of us,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
Mexico, ranked No. 26 in the world, finished second in its group to draw the United States in the semis.
Mexico made the field for the 2004 Olympics, but has not been back since. However, Mexico is on the rise, boosted by a domestic women’s league. The team won its first two group-stage matches before falling 2-0 to Canada.
“The competition that they have here in the U.S., the number of options that they have to play, I think every practice is probably tougher than a lot of their matches,” Mexico coach Christopher Cuellar said. “I think when you train at that level, and you have that kind of competition, the game becomes a little easier.”
The United States swept its group stage matches without allowing a goal. Lindsey Horan led the way with five goals and Press added four. Neither Press nor Horan started against Mexico.
Lavelle’s goal in the fifth minute gave the United States an early lead before Sam Mewis scored on a set piece in the 14th, blasting the ball past Mexico goalkeeper Emily Alverado.
Carli Lloyd had an opportunity to pad the lead in the 61st minute, but her shot went over the goal. Mewis scored her second goal on a perfectly placed free kick from just outside the box in the 67th minute. It was Mewis’ 18th international goal.
Press, who came in as a substitute, scored on a chip in the 73rd. She has scored in six straight matches for the United States, including each of the qualifying matches.
It was defender Crystal Dunn’s 100th appearance with the U.S. national team.
Mexico’s lone win against the United States came in qualifying for 2011 World Cup. The United States was forced into a two-legged playoff with Italy to earn a berth.
Attendance for the match at Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the LA Galaxy, was announced at 11,292.
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