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Lindsey Horan hat trick leads USWNT 8-0 over Panama in Concacaf Olympic qualifier

The U.S. will play Costa Rica for the Group A title Monday. Both teams will then advance to the tournament semifinals.

U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan, left, brings down the ball as Panama defender Maria Murillo, right, tries to change direction to give chase during the second half of a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

HOUSTON — The United States women’s national advanced to the semifinal round of the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament Friday night with an overpowering 8-0 victory against Panama at BBVA Stadium.

Midfielder Lindsey Horan was responsible for three of those goals, completing her first career hat trick, and had two assists. The rest of the scoring came from Lynn Williams, Rose Lavelle, Jessica McDonald, Christen Press and Tobin Heath. Together, they  left the announced crowd of 14,121 — the second-largest attendance in history for a women’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying match in the U.S. — celebrating with chants of “U-S-A!” 

“It was an important win for us,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the match. “It was a good win against a team that has good women’s soccer that is growing.”

The U.S. and Costa Rica now sit atop Group A in the tournament with six points each and wins against Haiti and Panama. The teams will play each other for the Group A title Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET at BBVA Stadium. The USWNT needs only a draw to win the group since it leads Costa Rica in goal differential +12 to +7. Both teams will then advance to Friday’s semifinal round, where the Group A winner will play the Group B runner-up. Canada and Mexico will play for the Group B title at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Three minutes into Friday’s game, Horan kicked off the United States’ dominant performance by opening the scoreboard following a bad clearance by Panama’s goalkeeper. Then in the 15th minute, Horan assisted Williams, who made it a 2-0 game with her eighth career goal for the U.S. and her fourth goal in the last three games. 

Three minutes later, Horan was again in the right place at the right time. McDonald sent the ball into the box and Horan came out of the back with no Panama defense guarding her to score the USWNT’s third goal of the night.

“I thought Lindsey was exceptional,” Andonovski said. “I think she did an incredible job, obviously. She scored three goals and two assists, so direct impact on the game. … I am just happy she is coming back to her best form, and I think that the best of Lindsey Horan is yet to come.”

U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (18), defender Becky Sauerbrunn (4) and defender Abby Dahlkemper, right, celebrate the team’s 8-0 win over Panama. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

As fans were getting back into their seats after celebrating the last goal, in came the fourth goal. Williams took the rival goalie out to the 12-yard mark and passed the ball to Lavelle, who blasted a shot inside the net.

The U.S. went into the halftime break with a 4-0 lead.During the first 45 minutes, the United States maintained 63% possession with 17 total shots and nine on target. Panama finished the half with no shots.

“Felt amazing,” Horan said. “I think we improved a lot from our first game. We had a lot to take away and things we needed to do better, be a little bit more clinical and just have a little more urgency — and I think our the whole team did that.”

Not much changed in the second half. The Americans dominated and kept the crowd screaming, though no more goals were scored until an attacking flurry that started in the 70th minute. 

First, Press scored off a header, giving her a goal in three consecutive games. Two minutes later, McDonald blasted in a goal to make it a 6-0 game. In minute 78, Heath added to the tally minutes after subbing into the game for Williams. Heath’s goal put her in exclusive company with Carli Lloyd as the only U.S. players to score in four different Olympic qualifying tournaments.

And finally, Horan completed her hat trick in the 81st minute.

American goalie Ashlyn Harris did not face a shot on goal all night, but she expressed respect for Panama’s willingness to keep pushing until the final whistle.

“I think Panama was a great team and they came out, and they do everything they can with the resources they are given,” Harris said. “So, a credit to them. They were trying to keep up till the end.”

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