USA's Tobin Heath (pictured) has registered an assist and picked up one yellow card thus far at the 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
FRISCO, Texas -- With one objective fulfilled -- reaching the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship (CWOQ) -- the United States has another one to strive for against Puerto Rico on Monday night.
The current World Cup, Olympic and CONCACAF champion wants to win Group A and travel to Houston for Friday's semifinals with a perfect 3W-0D-0L record.
Head coach Jill Ellis has hinted at giving some regulars a rest against the already-eliminated Puerto Ricans (0W-0D-2L, 0 points) at Toyota Stadium. She might also give consideration to leaving center-back Julie Johnston and midfielder Tobin Heath out of the starting XI, since they have accrued one yellow card each.
"Certainly looking at fatigue issues, looking rest and recovery and making sure we have a game plan and a mentality that make sure we can take care of business," Ellis said. "That's our No. 1 priority, to get three points and finish top in our group."
In Saturday's 1-0 win over Mexico, it took the Americans 80 minutes to solve a determined, organized and physical side. Although it hit the woodwork on multiple occasion, the U.S. did not get on the scoreboard until captain Carli Lloyd tucked away the rebound of her own saved penalty kick.
"It's not one of those matches where you walk away and feel good about it," remarked Lloyd, who has 10 career CWOQ goals, including seven in her last five outings in the competition. "That's the teams here are trying to do -- frustrate us and just get really compact behind the ball."
Ellis said she did not remember a Mexican side playing such tenacious defense, praising Mexico head coach Leonardo Cuellar by calling him "a good strategist."
"They were very compact, very disciplined," the 49-year-old former UCLA manager added. "We didn't help ourselves at times, but hat's off to them for a game plan that minimized the space, minimized the goal differential and helped them going into the last game."
Lloyd felt the U.S. needs to move the ball faster to spread out the defense.
"When you dwell on the ball and take a couple of touches it kind of starts to become the theme within the group," the Houston Dash star finished. "We can move the ball quicker. It will definitely help.”