WASHINGTON (AP) — Winning the World Cup is tough enough. If Tuesday night's thumping of Mexico is any indication, making the U.S. roster might be even tougher.
Over the next two years, the next generation of American women's soccer talent will compete with the old guard for precious roster spots and even more precious playing time for the 2015 championship in Canada. The established and the upstarts blended nicely in a 7-0 win at RFK Stadium, a signal to the world that the U.S. pool is as deep as ever.
"I think what a result like tonight does is it sends a message right across the whole squad that there are no places safe on this team," coach Tom Sermanni said. "And that's important for competition, and it's important for the continued development of the team."
Abby Wambach extended her world record with her 161st international goal, while Morgan Brian got her first. Sydney Leroux scored four times in the first half alone, while defender Rachel Buehler tallied just her fifth goal in 104 U.S. games. Erika Tymrak and Leigh Ann Robinson earned their first U.S. caps.
Oh, the dilemmas Sermanni will face as he thinks ahead. It's a good problem to have.
"I think our second 11 would definitely get into the semifinals of any world championship," Wambach said. "Tom has a difficult job over the next two years deciding who the team's going to be, who's going to be the starters. ... That's why he gets paid the big bucks."
The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, ran their overall unbeaten streak to 35 games and their home unbeaten streak to 73. They are 27-1-1 all-time against 24th-ranked Mexico.
The U.S. team had been off for 2½ months while the National Women's Soccer League wrapped up its inaugural season. Several regulars missed the game because they're either playing in Europe or nursing injuries. Forward Alex Morgan, who strained a ligament in her left knee during the NWSL season, was on the bench but did not play.
That opened the door for players such as Brian, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Virginia who is still in a bit of awe over the chance to share the field with her heroes.
"You look around at the players that you're playing with, and it's Abby Wambach," Brian said. "I mean, some of these players are 13, 14 years older than me."
Wambach is indeed 33, but she's not going anywhere anytime soon. She broke Mia Hamm's international mark of 158 goals in the U.S. team's previous game and played a part in all four goals scored in the first 30 minutes on Tuesday.
Totally unmarked by the Mexican defense directly in front of the goal, Wambach look almost casual as she swung her left foot on a crossing pass from Kristie Mewis to put the U.S ahead in the 11th minute. Wambach's celebration — a leap that showed off her highlighter-pink shoes — took as much effort as the goal itself.
Wambach then had a shot saved by goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago in the 21st minute, but Leroux was there to head in the rebound. One minute later, Wambach made a nice touch pass that sprung Lauren Holiday for a shot again saved by Santiago, but Leroux was there again to pounce on the rebound to make it 3-0.
In the 30th, Wambach was the catalyst one more time, nodding the ball forward to set up Leroux's run that ended with a falling-down left-footed shot for the striker's third goal.
Leroux scored again in the 41st on a set piece, heading in a free kick from Holiday. Leroux has 42 goals in just 18 games for the U.S. team, including her five-spot against Guatemala in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year.
"She still hasn't even touched her potential," Wambach said. "And that's scary."
Goalkeepers Hope Solo (first half) and Nicole Barnhart (second half) combined for the shutout.
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