By: Pedro Heizer
With a record crowd of 20,274 spectators on hand to watch the U.S Women’s National Team wrap up an undefeated (13-0-3) 2013 campaign, with a 4-1 win over Brazil at the Florida Citrus Bowl on November 10th, Orlando showed it is ready for Major League Soccer.
The crowd was the largest to watch the USA play this year, the largest home crowd ever in the southeast, and largest home crowd since 2004 when 20,435 turned out at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to watch the USA defeat Mexico 1-0 in the match after the Olympic gold medal run in Athens, Greece.
“This is a world championship environment,” said forward Abby Wambach, who scored her 163rd International Goal on a 17th-minute penalty kick. “You can’t create this kind of atmosphere every day.”
Sydney Leroux opened up the scoring for the Americans in the 15th minute off a cross from Stephanie Cox, who drove a cross to far post where Heather O’Reilly got on the end of it and touched it back to the other post where Leroux acrobatically finished with a left-footed volley.
Just two minutes later, Wambach continued the scoring after coolly sinking a penalty kick into the right corner just past Brazil’s keeper, Thais.
“That’s been my job for I don’t know how many years,” said the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year Wambach. “I’ve missed less than a handful (of penalty kicks). I’ve been taking them all week since I missed that one against New Zealand. I don’t miss too many in a row.”
Brazil got one goal back in the 25th minute when Rosana sank a header in the left corner just past Hope Solo after a cross from the right side by Rilany. The goal was Hosana’s 19th international goal.
Leroux pushed the lead back to two goals in the 36th minute with a dribbling run that ended with a classy finish. Carli Lloyd fought off Gabi Zanotti and dished to Wambach in the center of the field where she redirected the ball to a darting Leroux on the left side. Leroux got past Rilany, powered into the penalty area and took a touch inside to elude the onrushing Thais. With the Brazilian keeper on the ground, Leroux slotted the ball home for her second goal of the half and the 24th of her international career.
“Abby played me a great ball,” explained Leroux. “I took my touch inside and felt my defender coming, she slid and when the keeper came I did a shutter-step and went to the other side.”
Solo ensured the lead would stand up in the second half for the Americans, making three spectacular saves in an 8-minute span as Brazil carved out a series of breakaway opportunities. Solo made diving saves on 1-on-1 opportunities, two by Raquel and another by Rosana.
“The way we play, we always leave ourselves susceptible to counter-attacks, and that’s where it makes Hope the No. 1 player in the world, because it’s not like she’s in the action all the time,” said U.S head coach Tom Sermanni. “She’s out of the action for 10, 15 minutes. And then she’s in a 1-on-1. And she was magnificent in the second half in that regard.”
“Hope came up big for us tonight,” added Wambach. “She had those three great saves that could have easily been Brazil goals, without Hope this would have been a different game.”
The Americans put the nail on the coffin in the 76th minute when Florida-native Erika Tymrak – who attended high school in Bradenton, Fla., and college at the University of Florida – scored her first international goal in just her second cap. Lindsey Horan and Alex Morgan exchanged a couple of passes before Horan dished to Tymrak. She evaded a defender to her right and fired a low drive from the edge of the box that snuck into the lower left corner of the goal.
“Am I in a dream right now?” joked Tymrak. “It was surreal and incredible to be able to play, and score in front of this fantastic crowd in my home state. It was an incredible experience.”