|USA's Magan Rapinoe (left) heads the ball against Canada's Christine Sinclair during the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer tournament final in Vancouver, B.C., Jan. 29, 2012. (BEN NELMS/Reuters)
VANCOUVER - It clearly wasn't the way Canada wanted it to end. Not like that. Especially not in front of another record crowd.
But, then again, they were facing the best in the world.
Sunday at BC Place, the Canadian women's soccer team fell 4-0 to No. 1-ranked USA in the final of the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament, ending a rather successful event that saw Canada earn a spot in the 2012 London Games.
Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan each scored twice for the Americans, who improve to 42-3-5 all-time against Canada and are unbeaten in 25 straight meetings between the two nations dating back to 2001. With the gold-medal performance, USA finishes the tournament with five wins, outscoring their opponents 38-0.
"It was a reality check for us," said Canadian striker Christine Sinclair, who led the tournament in goals with nine. "We didn't really show up in the first half and it cost us. The Americans showed their depth and they were fresher than we were. We have some work to do."
While both teams already booked their trip to London with semifinal wins Friday — Canada beating Mexico 3-1 and USA beating Costa Rica 3-0 — Sunday's game still had meaning.
Tactically, the winner scores a higher seed in the Olympics, which will most likely result in a better group placement. Not that either rival needed any extra motivation.
For the seventh-ranked Canadians, they had something to prove in front of 25,427 home fans — a lower-bowl sellout and the second largest crowd ever for a women's international "A" match in Canada.
"This was the key aspect that all of Canada would have been watching tonight," said Canadian coach John Herdman. "You had the whole nation captivated. It was our chance to bring it alive. I can't fault the players' efforts."
But while the lively atmosphere greeted every Canadian possession early on, it had no affect on the Americans.
Just four minutes into the match, a Wambach forward header set off a race between Morgan and a pair of Canadian defenders. The American striker outran and outmuscled her way onto the ball, beating goalkeeper Erin McLeod for her third goal of the tournament and a crowd-silencing one-goal lead.
The Canadians countered with a quality chance in the 18th minute after Sinclair made a brilliant touch to Christina Julien in the box. But goalkeeper Hope Solo came out with a hard challenge to keep the score in tact.
In the 24th minute, the Americans struck again. Another strong run by Morgan set up a cross to Wambach, who headed the ball just inside the post.
"It took the momentum out of everything and took the wind out of the crowd as well," Canadian forward Melissa Tancredi said of the USA's strong start. "After the second goal, I could hear a pin drop."
Four minutes later, USA added another tally, with Wambach capitalizing on a Morgan feed and poor defending by the Canadians. It was the 31-year-old's 131st goal of all-time for Team USA, moving her past retired American star Kristine Lilly for second on the women's international scoring list.
Morgan rounded out her night with another goal in the 56th minute as Canada's 10 game unbeaten streak came to an end.
The Canadians had several quality chances to ruin Solo's clean sheet, including a breakaway by Julien, but American goalkeeper was superb, keeping the hosts scoreless.
"They gave us a hard time but today we put everything together," said Amercian coach Pia Sundhage. "We made them look poorly at times. But don't forget their great chances and the things they did well. At times it was a tight game."
"Apologies for not doing what we could have done tonight," said Herdman. "Give us another six months and we'll make sure we're ready for London."
NOTES: The overall attendance for the tournament surpassed 160,000 with an overall average of about 15,000 per game day … The previous record for a Canada women's "A" match in B.C. was 6,210 … Canada qualified for their second Olympic Games while the Americans will make their fifth Olympics appearance … Sunday's game was the 50th meeting between the two countries … The Americans made six different changes to their starting lineup from the Costa Rica match while the Canadians had just three changes from their victory over the Mexicans.