VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Whew, that was close.
Well, relatively speaking, that is.
After routing the Dominican Republic and Guatemala by a combined 27-0 tally, the U.S. women beat Mexico by a mere 4-0 score Tuesday night when they closed out group play at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. Just 4-0? Sheesh. No one even scored five goals in the entire game, let alone the second half -- as Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux each did the first two games.
Instead, the Americans had to be satisfied with a mere hat trick by Carli Lloyd, as well as a victory over a Mexico team that nearly kept them out of last year's World Cup with an upset in that qualifying tournament 14 months ago. That 2-1 loss to Mexico in Cancun has fueled the Americans here.
"It was redemption for us," Lloyd said of Tuesday's win. "We came out strong and knew we had to get it done. There [are] no second chances for Olympic qualifying, so we made sure we got into semifinals and the semifinal is going to be the big one."
The victory was important because it means the United States will play Costa Rica instead of host Canada in Friday's semifinals, with the winner advancing to the London Olympics. Costa Rica is a heavy underdog, but the Americans aren't looking past anyone after their experience in Cancun. Which is why, immediately after Tuesday's victory, veteran forward Abby Wambach gathered the team together to deliver a single, clear message: "We haven't done anything yet."
"This obviously is really good for us to put us in a position where we get out of our group and now cross over to play the second seed, Costa Rica," Wambach said. "But this is the exact same position we were in in Mexico in 2010. We haven't done anything. We still have one day left."
Well, it's not quite exactly like the Mexico situation. After that loss, the U.S. was still able to qualify for the World Cup by winning a home-and-home against Italy. There is no fallback here; the winner goes to the Olympics and the loser stays home to watch on TV.
"Everybody knows it. Everyone understands it," Wambach said. "But in hindsight, when we were in Cancun, maybe we wish we had said something like that prior to that game. 'Look, we haven't done anything yet. We need to win this game, we need to get out of this game to qualify.' This time, I don't want to leave any stone unturned."
The Americans' attention to detail extended to writing the word "Liebe" on their arms in honor of injured teammate Ali Krieger, who has that German word for "love" tattooed on her forearm. Krieger was hurt in the first half of the team's 14-0 win against the Dominican Republic on Friday, tearing the ACL and MCL in her right knee after a collision.
"Ali will be part of this team whether she is here or not," Wambach said. "She is an integral part of this team, not only on the field but off. We love her, we miss her and we hope for a speedy recovery. We will be OK. This team isn't made up of any individuals. And unfortunately, in her situation, you realize the team goes on and wins games."
It certainly does. The U.S. scored in the seventh minute on a Lloyd header and followed that up with a Heather O'Reilly goal just 65 seconds later. It gave the Americans a 2-0 lead, which made it pretty clear there would be no Cancun sequel for Mexico.
"They are the best team in the world. It's as simple as that," Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said. "Japan won the World Cup and they have momentum, but overall, the statistics are very clear. The U.S. is simply the best. For us to be in the game, we needed to have a good beginning and we didn't have it. We gave away two early goals and the team was not able to get settled. ...
"At the end, they are a better team than us. We needed to play a perfect game, like we did in Cancun, to deserve the victory."
Perhaps the only negative Tuesday was a slight quadriceps pull that bothered goalkeeper Hope Solo toward the end of the game. Solo said she tweaked it during practice a couple days ago, possibly a result of fatigue from her "Dancing with the Stars" competition.
"Luckily going into the next game, I have an extra day of rest and things should be fine," Solo said. "I think this team is going to benefit from having an extra day off. I know personally I will. Absolutely, I need some extra days to get some treatment and make sure my leg is ready to go come semifinals. That's the most important game."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His website is at jimcaple.net.