CARY, N.C. – The United States used a radically different lineup but got the same dominating results.
Carli Lloyd scored three goals and the United States beat Panama 5-0 on Sunday in the group stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament.
Christen Press added a goal and two assists for the U.S. team, which led 4-0 at halftime.
The United States’ starting lineup was different by nine players from the group that began the team’s 6-0 tournament-opening win over Mexico on Thursday night. Only defender Abby Dahlkemper and midfielder Julie Ertz started again, with star forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe among those absent from the starting 11.
“I think overall it should give the group a lot of confidence knowing that we have so much depth on this team,” Lloyd said. “We can seriously be deadly and unstoppable. It’s coming together collectively for everyone. It’s looking good.”
The United States struck for three goals in less than 10 minutes midway through the first half to break it open.
Lloyd, who had her eighth international hat trick, scored twice during that stretch. Among her goals was a highlight-worthy effort in the 29th minute in which she eluded three defenders while working her way from left to right in the penalty area.
A longtime midfielder for the United States, Lloyd started at striker and showed progress in her adjustment to her new role.
“I’ve been studying the game and trying to evolve,” she said. “With that has kind of been this thing where I’ve kind of had to take a couple of steps backward to go five steps forward. It feels really good. It’s clicking.”
The U.S team didn’t miss a beat with its revamped lineup. The United States scored in the fifth minute when Samantha Mewis headed in a corner kick from Press, and the team applied relentless pressure for the rest of the half.
With the potential to play five matches over the span of two weeks, coach Jill Ellis said she wanted to rest some players and “manage this tournament with the intent to try to win it.”
“It’s a 13-day type of deal, and five games is a lot,” Ellis said. “We have the ability to do that with the talent we have on this team.”
The score would have been even more lopsided if not for several acrobatic saves by 17-year-old Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey.
Panama didn’t attempt its first shot until the 61st minute. The United States outshot Panama 35-4 overall, catching its opponent by surprise with the personnel changes.
“It was a little bit confusing because this is something that we definitely weren’t expecting,” Panama coach Victor Suarez said.
The United States improved to 2-0 in Group A play of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, an eight-team tournament that decides the region’s three spots in the World Cup next year in France. A fourth team will earn the right to a playoff against Argentina for a spot.
Ranked No. 1 in the world, the U.S. team plays Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday in the last of its three CONCACAF round-robin matches. The United States is the reigning World Cup champion, having beaten Japan in the final in 2015.
Panama entered the match tied with the United States atop Group A after a 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday. Panama will play Mexico on Wednesday.
The top two teams from Group A will advance to the CONCACAF semifinals in Frisco, Texas, with the top two finishers from Group B. Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba and Jamaica are playing in Group B in Edinburg, Texas.
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