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FRISCO (AP) – The U.S. women’s opening set piece finally paid off.
Alex Morgan scored off it 12 seconds in and added another goal in the 62nd minute and the U.S. opened CONCACAF qualifying for the Rio Olympics with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica on Wednesday night.
Morgan’s goal was the fastest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying history, and the team said it is believed to be the fastest in U.S. history. It came on a designed play that the team uses off most opening kickoffs.
“We always see it coming,” Morgan said. “It always starts off right, then something goes wrong. This time, nothing went wrong.”
The match was the Americans’ first competitive game since winning the World Cup. They have won three straight Olympic titles and four of the five in women’s soccer.
The U.S. roster features only 13 of the 20 players who were on the World Cup team. Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe are injured, and Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux are pregnant and will miss the Olympics.
Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn also scored first-half goals, and substitute Christen Press scored in the 83rd minute.
“For me, it’s almost a perfect start,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “We were able to check off a lot of boxes.”
In Wednesday’s other Group A opener at Toyota Stadium, Maribel Dominguez scored a hat trick as Mexico routed Puerto Rico 6-0.
Morgan’s first goal was a right-footed volley to the left of goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz from about 13 yards out while being tightly marked on her left side. Lloyd assisted with a jumping header after collecting a long cross lofted in by Lindsey Horan from beyond midfield seconds after the opening kickoff.
Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde said through an interpreter that her team was prepared for a U.S. attack right off the opening kick yet couldn’t prevent the early goal. That disrupted not only the defense, Valverde said, but the whole team.
Morgan’s second-half goal, her 59th career score, was a header just inside the 6-yard box off a chipped cross from Lloyd.
Lloyd noted her on-field teaming with Morgan is different from what Morgan shared with recently retired star Abby Wambach. But this pairing is getting better with familiarity, she said.
“What she does great is get in behind the back line,” Lloyd said of Morgan. “Tonight was great. We had a good connection.”
Lloyd’s goal came on a penalty kick after Dunn was tripped just inside the 18-yard box. It was her 83rd career score and 20th in her last 15 matches. She nearly scored again in the 59th minute on a point-blank header right at Diaz.
Dunn scored her fifth career goal in the 15th minute, standing at the goal line as she followed her own saved shot.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was never seriously challenged. She made two saves during the first half on long free kicks.
The United States has never lost a qualifying match and is 13-0 against Costa Rica.
The U.S. team will face Mexico on Saturday and close group play against Puerto Rico on Monday night.
The two top teams in Group A will join the two survivors from Group B, which is being played in Houston. The two semifinal winners in Houston on Feb. 19 will qualify for Rio.
Mexico’s Dominguez, known internationally as “Marigol,” opened the scoring in the opening match in the 18th minute and added her other goals in the second half. The 37-year-old Dominguez is Mexico’s leader in career qualifying goals with 14.
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