FRISCO, Texas (AP) – Carli Lloyd sent the U.S. women into the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals.
Lloyd scored off a rebound on her penalty kick to give the United States a 1-0 victory over Mexico on Saturday.
Her penalty shot followed a Mexico hand ball in the penalty area called against substitute Karla Nieto by referee Melissa Borjas of Honduras. The shot went to the middle of the net and was blocked by goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. Lloyd then buried the rebound, with Santiago still on the ground, for her 84th career goal.
"I guess you can't make all of them all of the time," Lloyd said. "Luckily, the rebound came right back to me and there was no hesitation and just put it in the back of the net."
The ball struck Nieto after a U.S. cross was trapped by Alex Morgan.
"You have to live with those things," Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said. "The referees have a very short time to make a decision."
Morgan said she didn't see the infraction.
"I was looking more at getting the ball from my chest and taking the shot," she said. "I was a little confused when she called the PK."
The winners of the semifinals — set for Houston on Feb. 19 — will qualify for the Rio Olympics.
The Americans will conclude group play Monday night against Puerto Rico trying to win Group A. The other match Monday between Mexico and Costa Rica will determine the group's other semifinalist. Costa Rica won the opener Saturday at Toyota Stadium, beating Puerto Rico 9-0.
"That's the No. 1 priority, to get three points and finish top of the group," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said, "but at the same time, knowing that we're in the semis, is making sure we're smart with certain players' loads.
The United States remained unbeaten in CONCACAF qualifying play at 15-0-1, having scored 81 goals and allowing four.
Mexico nearly tied the score in the 87th minute when Monica Ocampo's left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box was batted over the crossbar by Hope Solo to preserve her 93rd career shutout.
The tournament is the Americans' first competitive play since winning last summer's World Cup in Canada. They have won three straight Olympic titles and four of the five in women's soccer.
This U.S. roster features only 13 of the 20 players who were on the World Cup team. Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe are injured, and Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux are pregnant and will miss the Olympics.
The Mexican team played five defenders across the back line for most of the match to frustrate the Americans. Lloyd indicated the United States' close call on Saturday wouldn't become a blueprint for other top teams around the globe to follow.
"Teams come to play in Germany, France, England," she said. "They don't pack it in.
"I think at one point they (Mexico) had nine players behind the ball."
The United States had two second-half opportunities strike the post — Christen Press in the 52nd minute and Lindsey Horan in the 76th minute.
Morgan had two scoring chances from close range that went over the crossbar midway through the second half with a left-footed shot in the 67th minute and a header two minutes later.