The United States Women’s soccer team came to Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon to begin their World Cup Victory Tour, and they didn’t let the record crowd of 42,028 down, easily defeating Costa Rica 8-0 in an international friendly.
Pittsburgh fans were treated to a classic, overpowering U.S. performance that included a hat trick from Christen Press, two goals from Heather O’Rielly, and additional tallies from Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, and hometown hero Meghan Klingenberg.
Klingenberg scored the first goal of the second half, in the 56th minute, after she moved to midfield from her usual outside left back position on the defensive back line, which she started and played in World Cup.
As Tobin Heath made a run to the right endline, cutting back a pass to the Gibsonia native — Klingenberg was able to put her shot past Costa Rican goalkeeper Dinna Diaz with a simple one-time finish.
After scoring the goal, an exuberant Klingenberg made a mad dash to the sideline, where she grabbed a Terrible Towel from her coach, Jill Ellis, which she waved to the delight of the crowd.
“I loved the way we scored that goal. It was a great team goal. Great build up. Tobin (Heath) played a great ball and I just tapped it in,” said Klingenberg.
“When we score goals like that — that’s something special. Everyone went nuts. I think I did too. It was incredible.”
As for the towel, Klingenberg wasn’t planning on using it initially, but she had some persuasion from her coach.
“At halftime, Jill was waving a little flag and told me to be ready for it — just in case I would score,” said Klingenberg.
“She had it there — and thankfully I did get to wave it. It was a special moment. It was a special day overall.”
Klingenberg’s goal started off more second half scoring — after the U.S. had already peppered Costa Rica with an flurry of first half goals to go up 4-0.
“With success comes great responsibility is what I told our players after we won the World Cup,” said Jill Ellis, U.S. Head Coach who’s contract was just renewed following the World Cup.
“And with these players, I don’t have too worry too much about them being ready to play. I said to them at halftime, that was a very professional half. They worked hard and moved the ball around. Played with great respect for the game.”
The U.S. started things off by capitalizing on some mistakes made by Costa Rica.
In the 5th minute, Heather O’Rielly intercepted a pass on the left side, made a run pass the last defender, and into the box for a shot just inside the near post that beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Dinna Diaz.
While they held possession for most of the half, the U.S. were not able to finish any quality chances in the final third until the 29th minute, when Christen Press recieved a ball in the box from Carli Lloyd. With her back to the goal, Press turned to take a shot, which deflected off a defender’s back, and quickly sent the rebound into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
At that point, it was clear the U.S. would have their way the rest of the match. Throughout the afternoon, the U.S. had 26 shot attempts and eight corner kicks.
A few minutes later they scored on a classic, pinpoint Megan Rapinoe corner kick, as defender Julie Johnston made a run to the near post to easily head the ball through for the third U.S. goal.
The U.S. completed the first half scoring surge with another goal from a corner kick. This time the service was sent to the far post as Shannon Boxx got the first touch on the ball with a header that was directed back to the middle of the goal box for Press.
After Klingenberg’s goal, the U.S. would ring up more goals in a twelve minute stretch in the middle of the second half, capped by Press completing her hat trick in the 68th minute.
Ellis used all of the subs that should could — bringing on Morgan Brian, Heath, Engen at the beginning of the second half, along with an opportunity to bring on Wambach, FIFA’s all-time leading scorer in international competitions (Men and Women), for Lloyd. Rounding out the subs, included goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Solo was tested by three second half Costa Rican shots, including a breakaway attempt in the 50th minute by Karla Villalobos, who’s shot would go wide left as she was trying to get around the U.S. keeper who came off the line.
PITTSBURGH IMPRESSES, SETS ATTENDANCE MARK
The announced crowd of 42,028 was the largest ever crowd to watch a soccer game in Pittsburgh — and the largest stand-alone audience for a U.S. Women’s friendly match played in the United States. It was the 10th highest attendance ever (including World Cup and Olympics) for a Women’s soccer game in the U.S.
It was a record-breaking weekend for Pittsburgh soccer, as the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds played before a new Highmark Stadium record of over 4,200 fans on Saturday night’s 1-1 draw vs Charlotte Independence.
“It was awesome,” exclaimed Klingenberg.
“I mean, 44,000 people were screaming the whole game. What more would you want?”
“Pittsburgh is a great sports city. Everyone was great and really showed up today. I knew it would be loud — and they were.”
“To have these numbers. It really shows we must have picked up even more fans in winning the World Cup and that’s so nice to see,” said Ellis.
“I don’t have to worry about players being motivated for these games. They had incredible support behind them.”
FINALLY SOME GRASS
World Cup hero Carli Lloyd on playing on Heinz Field’s grass surface, after playing all World Cup games and the remaining nine games of the “Victory Tour” on artificial Field Turf.
“It was great. We should be playing on natural grass all of the time. We’ll have to keep talking with our federation about making those changes,” said Lloyd.
Ashlyn Harris (G), Christie Rampone-c, Shannon Boxx, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Rielly, Carli Lloyd, Ali Krieger, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press.
Substitutes not used included: Alyssa Naeher (G), Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Lauren Holiday, Alex Morgan and Lori Chalupny. Sydney Laroux was not available after recovering from significant ankle surgery.
The U.S. now travel for the second game of their Victory Tour to Chattanooga, TN, for a rematch with Costa Rica on Wednesday.