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New lineup, same result as U.S. women take big step toward World Cup qualifying

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Check out photos from the Carolina Courage's win over Lyon to take the inaugural Women's International Champions Cup.
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Check out photos from the Carolina Courage's win over Lyon to take the inaugural Women's International Champions Cup.

Coach Jill Ellis started almost a completely new lineup for the United States in the second qualifying match for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The result wasn’t much different, however.

The U.S. poured in four first-half half goals, two from 38-year-old veteran Carli Lloyd en route to her eighth career international hat trick, and romped to a 5-0 victory over Panama on Sunday night that almost certainly punches their ticket for France next June.

Samantha Mewis and Christen Press also had goals for the U.S., and Press added two assists on sharp corner kicks.

The United States, No. 1-ranked in the world, clinched a berth in the CONCACAF semifinals with the victory, and for all intents and purposes also in the 2019 World Cup.

Two victories put the U.S. on six points in the Group A standings, a total only one other team – either Mexico or Panama, who will meet Wednesday – can match. Mexico defeated Trinidad and Tobago 4-1 in a late match Sunday night.

The U.S. also has an overwhelming goal differential of 11, which should guarantee first place in the group even in the absolutely unlikely event of a loss to Trinidad and Tobago in the final qualifying match, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The CONCACAF semifinals, championship and third-place match will be played in Frisco, Texas, on Oct. 14-17, with the top two teams from both Group A and Group B advancing there.

With three outright berths in the 2019 World Cup field going to CONCACAF, the U.S. would for all practical purposes be a lock for one of them. Even the fourth-place CONCACAF team would have a shot at a World Cup placement via a two-game playoff with Argentina, the third-place finisher in South America qualifying.

Ellis inserted nine new starters into the lineup before 7,532 appreciative fans in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park, and she probably would have used more except that rosters have been limited to 20 players for this tournament. The only two holdovers in the lineup from the 6-0 opening win Thursday night over Mexico were center back Abby Dahlkemper and center midfielder Julie Ertz, and Ertz departed after 45 minutes.

“We made some changes from the first game,” Ellis said. “The intent was to manage the tournament with the intent to win it.”

She added that the U.S. depth would prove important “knowing that hopefully there are five games in this series that we have to take care of.

“We really wanted to manage a couple injury issues, too. … With the talent we have on this team, it makes sense.”

The U.S. improved to 13-0-2 this year and holds an unbeaten streak of 23 matches (20-0-3) over the past 15 months.

Lloyd, who now has 105 career international goals, converted a header in the 23rd minute on a corner kick and added her second goal six minutes later after taking a pass from Casey Short in the penalty area, whirling to her right, and beating Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey to the far post.

“Obviously my role has changed over time,” Lloyd said of her move from the midfield to center forward. “With age you’ve got to change some things. I still feel as fit as I’ve ever felt. But these last couple of years I’ve really been trying to train my brain in a different way. I’m not the Carli Lloyd of five years ago who is just going to get the ball and just started running toward the goal. I’ve got to be able to play smarter. These last couple years have been studying the game and trying to evolve.”

The U.S. had opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Mewis, who plays her home matches in Sahlen’s Stadium for the champion North Carolina Courage of the NWSL, found the range with a header.

Press picked up her goal when she got on the end of a long ball from Dahlkemper in the 32nd minute, split two defenders, and beat Bailey 1-on-1.

Lloyd got her hat trick in the 48th on another header, off a free kick from Rose Lavelle. And Lloyd could have had more, but Bailey made three point-blank saves on her in the first half, including two on consecutive tries when Lloyd’s header and subsequent follow were deflected away.

“We could have had a couple more,” admitted Lloyd, who shared a hug with Bailey after the final whistle. “Full credit to Panama’s keeper. I thought she had a stellar game, despite everything.”

Bailey recorded eight saves in the first half alone and finished with 11. The U.S. outshot Panama 35-4.

An apparent goal by Mallory Pugh in the 73rd was disallowed because Lavelle was called for a foul on Bailey when they collided going for a high volley and Bailey went down.

Ashlyn Harris, the former UNC standout for the U.S., earned her 18th cap and made her only save in the 69th minute on a shot off a corner kick. Two other UNC alums, Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath, did not see action after starting against Mexico.

Panama coach Victor Suarez, who faces a must-win match Wednesday night against Mexico if he hopes to advance out of the group stage, made only one change in his starting lineup, sitting midfielder Kenia Rangel, who had one of the goals in Panama’s 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday night, for the first 33 minutes.

“We had to make one change due to injury, but our tactical strategy remained the same,” Suarez said through a translator. “We have to keep in mind that our players are really young, and we are still developing those players.

“The starting players are way more experienced. … We were trying to avoid many, many goals, because goal difference might affect us in the group stage.”

Wednesday’s matches

Mexico vs. Panama, 5 p.m.

United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 7:30 p.m.

CONCACAF Group A Table

W L T Pts GF GA GD

United States 2 0 0 6 11 0 11

Panama 1 1 0 3 3 5 -2

Mexico 1 1 0 3 4 7 -3

Trinidad and Tobago 0 2 0 0 1 7 -6

Wednesday’s matches

Mexico vs. Panama, 5 p.m.

United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 7:30 p.m.

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