VANCOUVER — The United States scored three goals in the first seven minutes Friday night in a record-setting 14-0 rout of the Dominican Republic in the Americans’ opening game of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in London, a victory tempered by a serious right knee injury to defender Ali Krieger.
Amy Rodriguez tied a U.S. record with five goals in a game — all in the second half — and the 14 goals are the most the Americans have ever scored in a game in their 27-year history.
Abby Wambach scored 37 seconds into the match, the first of two goals before she left at halftime, her sore knees feeling the impact of the artificial surface at the indoor BC Place Stadium. Heather O’Reilly had a hat trick for the Americans, who improved to 32-1-1 all-time in qualifying for World Cups and Olympics.
In such a no-contest, coach Pia Sundhage’s first and foremost concern was escaping without an injury, but Krieger, a 27-year-old right back who started every game in last year’s World Cup, went down on a hard tackle late in the first half. Her teammates gathered around her, putting hands to mouths in obvious concern as trainers ran onto the field.
Krieger was stretchered off, and a large ice pack was wrapped around her knee. She was given crutches, which she used to walk to the locker room at halftime. She was replaced by Heather Mitts.
A U.S. team spokesman said the injury was “serious” and would be reevaluated.
The injury had no impact on the game at hand. The score was 7-0 at halftime, and the Americans had taken 20 shots on goal to their opponents’ one.
Even the U.S. fans began to feel sympathy for the overmatched Dominicans, cheering loudly when goalkeeper Heidy Salazar would make a save instead of bobbling the rebound to give up another scoring chance. Sundhage is using the first couple of group games to get the players flowing with her new 4-2-3-1 formation, but it’s hard to judge what progress could have been made in such a one-sided game.
While a victory over a developing team like the Dominican Republic (ranked No. 88 in the world) is still a formality for the U.S. team, getting to the Olympics is not. The Americans had to win a backdoor playoff against Italy last year to get into the World Cup after losing to Mexico in a qualifying match.
This tournament has a similar format. Two automatic berths will come out of the eight-team field, and Canada, Costa Rica and, of course, Mexico all have the potential to upset the Americans on a given day. And, this time, there is no backdoor playoff.
Sundhage will get to experiment again with her lineup and formation on Sunday in the Americans’ second group game against Guatemala. The Guatemalans were overpowered in their opening group game, losing 5-0 to Mexico.
Then comes the much-anticipated rematch with Mexico in the final group game on Tuesday. The winner is expected to win the group and get a more favourable match in the all-important, London-or-bust semifinals.