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  • Writer's pictureMykala Ranger

Looking Back on the USWNT's W Gold Cup Title

Coming off a disappointing 2023 World Cup run, the United States Women’s National Team had an opportunity for redemption on the international stage in the first edition of the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup. After the initial round of group play, the U.S. displayed some bright spots and turbulence in the early stages, but persevered. Freshness infused from both Interim Head Coach Twila Kilgore and newer players folded into the mix brought a different look for the U.S., and new possibilities for this upcoming era.


The U.S. netted a decisive 5-0 victory against the Dominican Republic in their group stage opener, arguably the strongest performance from the them thus far. A distinctive formation shift from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 allowed for the best of the U.S.’ attacking talent to shine and combine to apply consistent pressure to the Dominican Republic. 



Newcomer Olivia Moultrie netted a brace and attacker Midge Purce provided consistent and quality service on the right flank for a coordinated display from the U.S. Defensively, midfielders Korbin Albert and Sam Coffey combined to provide cover in the midfield and occasionally dropped deeper to support the backline. Flexibility in pushing attackers forward and having midfielders drop back provided a unique approach, alongside their signature high press. Overall, an improved sense of cohesion from front to back aided in a more fluid and efficient U.S. team in their opening game.  


In their second group stage matchup, the U.S. faced Argentina and finished with a 4-0 victory alongside significant rotation and a formation change. The U.S. opted for a 4-3-3 with the return of captain Lindsey Horan to the starting XI, center back pairing of Tierna Davidson and Naomi Girma, and attacker Jaedyn Shaw on the front line amongst other changes. 


Shaw was the standout player bagging a brace with immaculate composure and skill. Veteran striker Alex Morgan, got on the scoresheet with a brilliant curling header and Horan finished off with a late stage penalty conversion, but cracks in the U.S.’ dominance began to show throughout the match. 


The front-to-back fluidity from the previous group stage opener was not as prominent against Argentina and at times left isolated performances that affected chemistry. Individually, players performed well, but at times struggled to find each other. Argentina had two major scoring opportunities that also spelled trouble had they counted. The U.S. advanced with a convincing scoreline despite the issues, but it created an intriguing backdrop for their final group stage match.


The final group stage match for the U.S. featured a crushing defeat at the hands of Mexico with a 2-0 scoreline. Another formation change to a 4-2-3-1 created instability defensively that carried through to the front line. Defender Emily Fox often pushed higher leaving three remaining defenders to fall into a lopsided shape, vulnerable to exploitation. 


Poor performances from individual players in conjunction with a stretched shape allowed Mexico to capitalize. A defensive error from Becky Sauerbrunn directly led to a lethal finish from Mexico’s Lizbeth Ovalle that turned the tide in Mexico’s favor. From the midfield to the front line the U.S.’ players were isolated and swarmed by Mexico’s players and thus failed to settle into a rhythm. 


Late game substitutions made no difference in pulling together the U.S.’ disjointed pattern of play. In the last few minutes of stoppage time, a flattened U.S. conceded another goal by failing to mark and disrupt Mexico’s Mayra Pelayo-Bernal. If not for a spark of quality from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and her stoppage time double save, the damage could have been much worse. 


The quarterfinal matchup between the U.S. and Colombia proved to be a heated and scrappy match that ended in a statement 3-0 win for the U.S.. Keeping in line with their previous match, the U.S. kept the 4-2-3-1 formation, but shifted around personnel, having captain Horan behind Morgan and Shaw in for forward Lynn Williams. 


Horan’s early converted penalty gave the U.S. the lead, but defender Jenna Nighswonger’s calm and collected low strike eased the rising tempers on both sides of the pitch to help solidify the victory.  The tempo of the match ebbed and flowed between the U.S. and Colombia, with the latter having the upperhand in possession. At times, spaces left between the deeper holding midfielders and backline of the U.S. allowed for Colombian attackers to catch them off-guard and trigger mistakes. 



The physicality of both teams attempting to disrupt the other made for numerous 1v1 duels, but the U.S. only needed a few breakthroughs to turn the tide and win. While the U.S. remained shaky at times under pressure, the collective effort to push through and secure the victory was a much needed boost going into the semifinals.


A continental rivalry between the U.S. and Canada took center stage for a controversial slip-and-slide semifinal that went down to the wire. Torrential downpours left a drenched pitch that raised concerns for player welfare, but nonetheless the match continued. 


Individual brilliance was the key factor to this matchup as both teams struggled to establish a rhythm or even dribble the ball. That struggle was exacerbated as forward Jaedyn Shaw was able to capitalize off an error in the Canadian defense to put the U.S. up early on. Canada came back with a late equalizer from striker Jordyn Huitema which took the match into extra time. Forward Sophia Smith scored her first goal of the tournament in the first half of extra time, and seemingly secured the victory until the U.S. conceded a late penalty. 


With both teams level after full time the semifinal went down to penalty kicks. Arguably the hero of the match, Alyssa Naeher, made three saves against Canada and converted her own penalty to advance the U.S to the final of the W Gold Cup. 


Mirroring the early 2000s matchup from previous iterations of the W Gold Cup, the U.S. faced Brazil in the championship match and remained victorious with a 1-0 scoreline. An experimental 4-4-2 formation brought a unique look for the US with midfielder Rose Lavelle pushed higher and a front duo consisting of Rodman and Morgan. 


Similarly to the matchup against Colombia, the rhythm was in favor of Brazil, particularly being successful with overloading the midfield. The U.S. held on under pressure from Brazil and got their final goal of the tournament off a header from Horan to make the difference. Solid defensive work from Coffey to win the ball in midfield and spur an attack led to a cross in the box from Rodman that found the head of the U.S. captain at the end of the first half. 


The second half had increased pressure from the states especially with the inclusion of Williams and Purce who nearly combined to make a goal. As the USWNT soared with a renewed spark, Brazil lost a bit of steam and ultimately finished as runners up. 



This tournament victory opens the United States' calendar year with a hardware and positive momentum as they prepare for the upcoming summer Olympics. 



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