Los Angeles Soccer: Maribel Dominguez
We've been hearing, and sometimes actually seeing, how the rest of the world has caught up to the U.S. in women's soccer, and no matter how much truth there is to the notion, it doesn't lessen the blow when something thought impossible occurs.
Such as the Americans' loss Friday night to Mexico.
It was an American -- San Mateo's Veronica Perez -- who knocked out the U.S. in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semifinal, her 27th-minute header finishing off a 2-1 triumph in Cancun that sends Mexico into Monday's regional final against Canada.
The Mexicans and Canadians, who crunched Costa Rica, 4-0, in the other semifinal, qualified for next year's WWC in Germany. The U.S. must beat Costa Rica in Monday's third-place game, then beat Italy in a home-and-home series for another berth. The Americans' failure to qualify would be disastrous and would -- absolutely should -- cost Swedish coach Pia Sundhage her job.
The U.S. has been in transition the past decade as the legends of the previous generation -- including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy (Mission Viejo/Mission Viejo HS) and Joy Fawcett (Huntington Beach/Edison HS) -- retired one by one, the Europeans began asserting their technical superiority and the sport's growth around the globe began to mirror what had occurred in North America a generation or two ago.
The U.S. has done its part, sweeping through Group B in CONCACAF's Women's World Cup qualifying tournament in Mexico -- Monday's 4-0 victory over Costa Rica made the scoreline 18-0 -- and will discover Tuesday its semifinal foe.
Canada and Mexico have claimed Group A's final-four slots and their showdown in the last of the group games will determine the group winner (which will meet Costa Rica) and runner-up (which gets the U.S.). The winners of Friday's semis advance to next year's WWC in Germany; the third-place winner meets Italy for a berth.
LOCAL HEROES: Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), a senior at the University of California, scored her third goal in five international appearances to finish off Monday's win. Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach (with her sixth goal of the tournament, a penalty kick), former UCLA star Lauren Cheney and Yael Averbuch also scored for the U.S.
Thirteen of the 18 U.S. goals have been scored by SoCal-bred players, residents or former area collegians.
It was Amy Rodriguez's turn to score three Saturday night -- and the U.S. is one win from another Women's World Cup.
Rodriguez, Lake Forest's premier soccer product, followed the hat trick in the region's qualifying opener by Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach with one of her own as the Americans decimated Guatemala, 9-0, in Cancun, Mexico.
Wambach added two more goals and Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) scored a goal and assisted the 88th-minute finale by Rodriguez (Santa Margarita HS/USC). The U.S. and Costa Rica, also 2-0-0 after a 3-0 win over Haiti, will meet Monday for the Group B title.