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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Brown

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Clinches Olympics Berth: A Summary and Takeaways

Alex Morgan celebrates after converting a penalty kick in the U.S.'s win against Canada at the BBVA Stadium in Monterrey, Mexico, July 18, 2022. Photo/Jaime Lopez-Jam Media/Getty Images

The U.S. Women’s National Team scored one goal to win the final of the Concacaf W Championship against Canada last night and secure their spot in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.

The match was strikingly similar to the last meeting between the groups.

Canada’s previous meetup with the U.S. earned them a spot in the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics gold medal match. The game saw Jessie Fleming push a penalty kick past Adrianna Franch in the 75th minute, which became the lone goal that made the difference for Canada in their 1-0 win.

This time, it took just three minutes more for one of the teams to get on the board.

The game had plenty of missed opportunities until that point. Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith provided an abundance of service as well as shots on goal with their dynamic runs out wide. Pugh forced Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan to make a save only 45 seconds into the match after getting on the end of a ball tipped over the top and ripping a shot from the right side.

Along with Pugh, Smith’s technical abilities shone through in many instances, especially in tight spaces. In the fourth minute, she turned at the top of the box and slid the ball to Alex Morgan, whose curled shot to the back post went just wide.

Lindsey Horan took a bold shot that nearly resulted in a goal in the 14th minute. Turned away from the net, her bicycle-like volley had enough power but went right of the post.

Nichelle Prince tested Sofia Huerta repeatedly throughout the match. Around the 17th minute, she turned Huerta and dribbled up the left flank before taking a shot that deflected and hit the top of the crossbar.

Pugh had a wonderful chance in the 31st minute in which she received a ball from Rose Lavelle at the midfield and outran two Canadian defenders before placing a hard shot just within reach of Sheridan, who dove to make a great save. Pugh and Smith’s speed on the wings was one of the biggest threats to Canada all night and certainly showed as one of the U.S.’s strengths in this tournament.

However, finishing was lacking for the U.S., and Pugh demonstrated this when she failed to finish a perfect opportunity in the 39th minute. Horan intercepted the ball in the U.S.’s defensive third, made a run directly toward the top of the opposing box, and laid a pass off to Pugh, who was unmarked on the left. She was forced to slow her momentum and couldn’t get over the ball enough to keep her shot below the bar.

The best chance in the half came from a low-driven ball into the box by Huerta in the 45th minute that Smith struggled to get a solid touch on. After a short scuffle with Sheridan, the ball was scooped up and did not end up crossing the goal line.

The U.S. had multiple strong opportunities in the span of five minutes in the second half. Smith made a tremendous left-footed turn to evade a defender and place a shot on goal in the 63rd minute. One minute later, Morgan threaded a through ball to Smith, who touched the ball around the goalkeeper but couldn’t place the shot into the open net. Then, in the 65th minute, Morgan crossed a ball to the back post that Smith couldn’t get a header on.

Defender Allysha Chapman tripped Lavelle in the box in the 76th minute, and VAR confirmed that the play was a foul, giving the U.S. a penalty kick. Morgan sank the penalty, continuing her successful penalty conversion streak she started with her NWSL team, the San Diego Wave. It was the only goal Canada allowed in the tournament.

Canada strung together many chances in the last ten minutes of the match, but could not capitalize on them. Jordyn Huitema had a close-range header that went over the top in the 88th minute, and a last-ditch effort by the Golden Boot winner Julia Grosso was easily handled by Naeher before the final whistle blew.

Morgan’s penalty gave the U.S. a 1-0 win and their eighth Concacaf W Championship title. The team earned a berth to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, meaning they have won and qualified in every Olympic Qualifying tournament played. They also qualified for the inaugural Concacaf Women's Gold Cup, a tournament that already exists on the men's side. Each player will receive $120,000 in bonuses for winning the tournament, one of the first major demonstrations of the how new CBA signed in May will function.

The third-place match resulted in a win for Jamaica, where Kalyssa van Zanten scored in overtime to lift the team past Costa Rica. Canada and Jamaica will compete for another spot in the Olympics in September; this will be the region’s only other team that will play in the Olympic Games.

Key Takeaways

  • The final was the U.S.’s best game in the tournament. They generated 17 shots, six of which were on goal, but failed to finish any in the run of play. Their defense was a major reason they won this tournament.

  • The U.S.’s play throughout the tournament felt very formulaic, as though they were trying to play in a very specific and curated way. Other matches saw many forced crosses, long balls, and balls into the box. While a tiki-taka style of play clearly isn’t Andonovki’s preference, the team seemed impatient at times and tended to waste chances rather than stringing together a few extra passes.

  • One of the most unique strengths of the U.S. historically has been a combination of their grit, fitness levels, and urgency. This entire tournament lacked in that area; it felt as though the extra spark that can separate them from equally-skilled teams was missing.

  • This tournament was a great opportunity for the development of younger or less-experienced players such as Naomi Girma, Ashley Sanchez, and Sophia Smith. But it’s important to note that things may look very different a year from now, as there are at least seven players that have been essential to the U.S. in recent years that are out with injury, including Abby Dahlkemper, Catarina Macario, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, Lynn Williams, Sam Mewis, and Tierna Davidson. The tough decision for Andonovski will be to choose between the chemistry he has started to build within the current roster or the trust and experience of players who had some time out. Perhaps the solution will be a combination of each, but this will mean fierce competition for a spot on the 23-person World Cup roster.


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