My 3 Thoughts on USWNT-Canada
Morgan's 78th-minute penalty gives U.S. a 1-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF W Championship final
The USWNT beat Canada 1-0 on a 78th-minute penalty by Alex Morgan to win the CONCACAF W Championship and earn the U.S. an automatic berth in the 2024 Olympics. (Canada will meet Jamaica in a playoff for the other CONCACAF Olympic spot.) The U.S. win avenged last year’s 1-0 Olympic semifinal loss to the Canadians. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• Morgan came up big in the game’s deciding moment. Morgan delivered a terrific spot kick past her San Diego Wave club teammate, Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, to put the U.S. ahead on the only goal either team has conceded in the entire tournament. But that wasn’t Morgan’s only part in the penalty sequence. It was Morgan whose weighted pass put Rose Lavelle free in the box, where she was clipped by Allysha Chapman and fell to the turf. Morgan was sharp in this game from the start and should have had an assist a few minutes earlier in the second half when her ace through-ball found Sophia Smith, who somehow managed to shoot wide on an open Canadian goal. For Morgan, this game was personal. She was one of the few U.S. players on this team who had been on the field during Canada’s win over the U.S. during the Olympics. That loss had been crushing. And while this occasion wasn’t as big as that one, it still is an important win for the U.S. to reestablish control of CONCACAF after Canada’s gold medal last year.
• Vlatko Andonovski got a big win here too. If the U.S. had lost this game, Andonovski would have kept his job, but he most certainly would have been on the hot seat after two straight important losses to the Canadians. But the truth is this was the U.S.’s best performance of the tournament by far, and Andonovski deserves some credit for that. The U.S. came out on a mission and probably should have scored in the opening 15 minutes given the chances the Americans had. But Canada fought back and had its own dangerous attacking moments in the first half, often through Nichelle Prince working against Sofia Huerta. Those Canadian chances diminished in the second half, however, as the U.S. asserted control and deserved the advantage that came its way. Does Andonovski have a lot to figure out in the next year before the World Cup? Sure. A lot of that has to do with the return of some important players, including Catarina Macario, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Tierna Davidson and perhaps others. But beating Canada with a solid performance in a final is Andonovski’s biggest moment since taking the job.
• Work needs to be done over the next year. If the U.S. is going to win a third straight World Cup, there are several areas that need to be worked on. There needs to be more willingness in the attack to take defenders on 1v1 and less settling for lumping aimless crosses into the box. The central midfield needs to find more creativity than we saw in this tournament, and a Mewis or Ertz type (even if it’s Mewis or Ertz herself) needs to reestablish control as a defensive mid. (Andi Sullivan just didn’t bring enough this tournament.) Mal Pugh and Smith are phenomenal wingers but need to get more clinical in the moments that count the most. Is Naomi Girma a starting centerback next year? I think so. But there’s a lot of talent in the U.S. pool as well, and it’s certainly possible that a third straight World Cup run can be made.
What are your thoughts? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
And don’t forget to compliment the veteran in goal ( Naeher ). She did a fine job and stayed “ ready” right up to, and including, that hard shot in the last second of stoppage time.
Completely agree, Grant. Alex Morgan was on a *mission* last night. It was a deserved victory, even if they almost failed to see out the game.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but they have a year to get ready. And they avoided playoff qualifications for the Olympics. Pugh and Smith have proven they should start, and this tourney should boost their confidence.
The returnees will make the team stronger, especially with the experience Huerta, Girma, Cook, Fox, Sanchez, Murphy, and the aforementioned Pugh and Smith got. Tough fight for places in the 23 for ‘23.
Yeah, maybe I am a homer, but from here the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.