CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE -- After the deluge, it was just a lot more deluge. A very rainy Wednesday night in this Tennessee River valley did nothing to stop the U.S. national women's soccer team from flooding poor, porous Costa Rica in a 7-2 win at Finley Stadium.
Overmatched, the youngsters from the CONCACAF opponent were nearly helpless all the way to the end of the victory. Not that the shower of goals got tiresome to the sellout crowd of 20,535 -- or however many were left by the rainy end. Maybe it was OK that half the crowd did not make it through the rain-fest, since Costa Rica scored its first-ever goals against the U.S. women.
Still, the start of this U.S. Victory Tour certainly has given the U.S. team and their fans a lot to celebrate, which was the point after the U.S. women's national team's first World Cup win in 16 years. However, it's good to know that going forward, the U.S. will get a much more stout opponent in Australia for a pair of matches in September, then Brazil in October.
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But the U.S. was in town last night to share the love with Chattanooga area fans, and they gave the crowd their money's worth -- especially after enduring an 83-minute rain delay. By the time the skies opened to cause the delay, the U.S. was up 2-0 with 14 minutes gone.
In the seventh minute, Carli Lloyd sank a brilliant free kick for a goal, lofting the ball so it banged into the crossbar before falling down and in for the opener. Thirteen minutes in, Heather O'Reilly banged home a rebound to lift the U.S. to a quick 2-0 lead -- and that was it.
A heavy rainstorm drifted in and with lightning strikes in the mountains nearby, the second friendly in the Victory Tour series was temporarily suspended. Not that it mattered to the U.S., who picked up right where they left off when the action resumed.
"The crowd was awesome," Lloyd said. "I think this was probably one of the best crowds that we've played in front of. They were loud. They were chanting, screaming. It was really awesome, especially after the rain delay, they still came back and were cheering really loud."
Abby Wambach collected her 184th goal, extending her all-time leading scoring record. Lloyd scored her second goal of the night on a perfect corner from Megan Rapinoe to put the U.S. up 4-0. Moments later, Wambach reversed roles with O'Reilly and fed the midfielder a perfect cross, which O'Reilly headed home in the 23rd minute, putting the U.S. up 5-0.
Costa Rica gave the U.S. its sixth goal after a skirmish in front of the net, and then took advantage of a slight lapse in the U.S. defense for its first goal ever against the U.S.
Deep in the U.S. right end, Carolina Venegas dribbled past Becky Sauerbrunn and then Whitney Engen before finding a lane to pass off to Cristin Granados. The Costa Rica midfielder saw U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo shading to the left, so she pushed the ball to the right to make it 6-1. Costa Rica added their second goal in the 69th minute, Karla Villalobos beat Alyssa Naeher, who came on for Solo in the second half.
That development seemed to cue up greater caution by the U.S. women, who slowed down the attack, spread the field and played for possession until Alex Morgan chested home the U.S. women's 7th goal of the night in the 81st minute.
Still, getting love from their U.S. fans was the plan for Victory Tour, but giving love is big on the agenda for the U.S. women's national soccer team, too. They were in the exactly the right place to do so on the evening.
The U.S. was playing in Chattanooga a month after the July 16 attacks on two military facilities here that resulted in the deaths of four Marines and a sailor, the U.S. players wore black armbands as they took the field, and a moment of silence was held before the game. The American Outlaws fan group broke into sustained applause in the fifth minute of the game to honor the five victims.
"This team is resilient," O'Reilly said. "We bounce back through games, through tough moments of games and in this situation, it was sort of peculiar circumstances that we were able to show our resilience through."
U.S. team officials said the U.S. players plan to autograph the jerseys they're wearing in the game and put them up for auction, with proceeds benefiting the Chattanooga Heroes Fund that supports families of those who were killed or wounded in the attacks.
"Obviously, Chattanooga's gone through a trying time," Wambach said. "I think for us to be able to play here, to give some of the people of this city something to cheer for. We want to be a shining light of positivity. I think that we did that this summer. (It was great) for us to go on this 10-game victory tour to some of these cities that might need the lifting up. The crowd is amazing, even amongst the thunderstorms and the lightning. Huge, huge crowd. Huge cheers. Hopefully, we gave the city of Chattanooga something positive to cheer for."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.