U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring her second goal against… (Rich Lam / Getty Images )
The U.S. women's soccer team dominated the first round of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, Canada, outscoring its three opponents 31-0 and rolling into the semifinals undefeated.
But that won't mean anything if the U.S. does not beat Costa Rica on Friday, since the winner advances not only to the tournament final Sunday, but to the London Games this summer as well.
"We always throw those statistics out. We need to bring it," U.S. captain Christie Rampone said. "It's the semifinal, it's a major match and it's the game to determine whether we are in the Olympics or not."
Working in the Americans' favor: The U.S. has never lost an Olympic qualifying match. Nor has it lost to Costa Rica, beating the Central Americans in the semifinals of the last two tournaments.
Working against them: Team USA's memory of an upset loss to Mexico in 2009 in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup qualifier, as well as Hope Solo's pulled right quadriceps, which could sideline the world's top goalkeeper for the rest of the tournament.
"I have a bit of time to figure that out," Solo said after the team's training session Thursday on the artificial turf at BC Place. "We're just going to have to wait and see how it goes. This isn't a friendly; this isn't the Algarve Cup where you get more subs. You have three subs and you don't want to waste a sub on a goalkeeper when you need to get players minutes."
Solo was not called on much during group play, facing three shots in three games. But the U.S. may not have faced a team as strong as Costa Rica, which was second to Canada in its group.
"The biggest challenge is that they are for the most part unknown," said U.S. forward Abby Wambach, who has four goals in the tournament. "They have the ability to pull out big plays, elite plays. Because they have that ability, you can't ever fall asleep."
The U.S.-Costa Rica match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Mexico meets Canada in the second semifinal.