Crystal Dunn’s goal deluge leads U.S. rout of Puerto Rico

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FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The U.S. women’s soccer team’s younger reserves not only didn’t disappoint in their Group A finale in CONCACAF qualifying for the Rio Olympics, they delivered a record performance.

Crystal Dunn, one of only three regulars to start, tied a national team record with five goals and the U.S. routed Puerto Rico 10-0 Monday night to win the group.

“I’d like to think this is a special moment,” said Dunn, who couldn’t recall another five-goal game during her entire soccer career, “but I’d love to think there’s more to come.”

“Crystal worked real hard tonight,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “She was in a good position in central; I think that’s probably her most comfortable position. Obviously, got a lot of service from her teammates. It’s tremendous for her and for her confidence.”

The top-ranked Americans scored three times within 1:56 during the second half and outshot Puerto Rico 32-1.

The U.S. can clinch one of the 12 slots in Brazil with a win in its CONCACAF semifinal game Friday in Houston (live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). It will face the runner-up of Group B, which will finish play Tuesday. Canada is expected to win that group with Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago finishing second.

The U.S. remained unbeaten in all-time CONCACAF qualifying play at 16-0-1, having scored 91 goals and allowing four.

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 that have been staged in women’s soccer.

Group A’s other semifinalist is Costa Rica, which edged Mexico 2-1 in Monday’s first game at Toyota Stadium.

Dunn’s scores came in the sixth, 21st, 62nd, 85th and 87th minutes. She had five career goals going into the game and became the seventh U.S. woman to score five in a match.

The other five goals came from Carli Lloyd (on a penalty kick), Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Samantha Mewis (her first career score) and on an own goal.

Ellis’ opening lineup included eight players who didn’t start either of the two previous group games and only five players who appeared in last summer’s World Cup. The lineup was drastically changed since the team had already clinched a semifinal spot, was playing for the third time in five days and faced an opponent ranked No. 108.

Alex Morgan played only the second half, substituting for Lloyd. Goalkeeper Hope Solo was among the regular starters rested.

The newcomers including Mallory Pugh, 17, the youngest American woman to start a qualifying match. Pugh assisted on Dunn’s first goal and was tripped in the 18th minute, leading to Lloyd’s penalty kick.

“As the game kind of went on, I kind of got more comfortable with the ball,” Pugh said. “I think that the fact that my teammates around me are so positive, that helps.”

“This squad that we started today was obviously young,” Dunn said. “I think it was really great for everyone to get some time today.”

Alyssa Naeher earned the shutout, the third of her career, in her first CONCACAF qualifying appearance.

It was Lloyd’s 85th career international goal and 11th in Olympic qualifying, three off Abby Wambach‘s U.S. record.

O’Hara’s score came on a back heel near the goal line in the 45th minute off a cross from Stephanie McCaffrey.

Puerto Rico made its first appearance in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament and had never previously faced the United States at the senior level. It was outscored in its three matches 25-0.

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.

MORE: Carli Lloyd ranks Olympic-, World Cup-winning goals

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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