Lindsey Horan jumped on the scoring chance early in Friday night’s CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying game at Houston’s BBVA Stadium.
Positioned 25 yards away from the net, Horan drilled a rebound shot past Panamanian goalkeeper Yenith Bailey in just the third minute, kick-starting an 8-0 victory against Panama that secured a spot for the U.S. women’s soccer team in the semifinal round of the tournament.
A victory in the semifinals on Feb. 7 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, would lock down a spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The U.S. has never lost a game in an Olympic qualifier, running its record to 20-0-1 with Friday’s victory.
The U.S., which is unbeaten in its last 25 games and is seeking its fifth Olympic gold medal, plays Costa Rica on Monday night for first place in Group A. Both teams have clinched spots in the semifinals.
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Horan, a 2016 Olympian and a member of the 2019 FIFA World Cup championship team, scored twice in the first 18 minutes and added a third goal in the 81st minute for her first career hat trick. She almost had another goal in extra time in the first half, heading a ball toward the goal off a corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, but the ball was stopped by Panama’s keeper. Horan has scored four goals in her last two games.
Lynn Williams scored in the 15th minute and Rose Lavelle, winner of the Bronze Ball award at the World Cup, added a goal in the 21st minute as the U.S. offense dominated play. Christen Press, Jessica McDonald, Tobin Heath and Horan scored in the second half.
The CONCACAF tournament will determine two of the 12 teams that will play in the Olympic Games. The championship game finalists – the semifinal winners – clinch Olympic berths. Already qualified for Tokyo are host Japan, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand. Two of those national teams are coached by former U.S. women’s coaches: Pia Sundhage with Brazil and Tom Sermanni with New Zealand.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.