Despite both teams already qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, this was the most anticipated match of the tournament as the UWSNT and Canada played for glory and the Concacaf Women’s Championship title. It was the U.S. that claimed both with a 2-0 victory over Canada to win the Concacaf Championship.
For the fifth and final time this tournament, the U.S. scored in the first 10 minutes of the match with Rose Lavelle scoring early. But the usual flood of goals didn’t follow in this match, with the second goal not coming until the waning moments of the game by Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan. It was the toughest test of the tournament for the U.S. and the team delivered, albeit a little closer than expected.
USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis kept the lineup the same as the past three matches. Except tonight it was Alex Morgan wearing the captain’s armband instead of Megan Rapinoe, who had the honor in the semifinal match against Jamaica.
It only took two minutes for the U.S. to score when Lindsey Horan found open space down the left side and whipped a ball into the box. Pride and Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky’s clearance sent the ball right to Lavelle outside the box and the Washington Spirit midfielder fired a shot that curled into the bottom right corner of the net to give the U.S. an early 1-0 lead.
With some time to settle in, the Canadians found more of the ball and maintained possession in the U.S.’s half but weren’t able to find much room to work with once they got closer to the goal.
In the 17th minute, Rapinoe nearly scored one for her highlight reel when she had an open look at Canada’s goal with enough time and space to send a bending ball that went just wide.
The U.S. pressure continued in the 20th minute after Morgan found Tobin Heath making an excellent run behind Canada’s defense. However, Heath was unable to find her footing, slipped, and the moment went squandered.
Canada almost found an equalizer a few minutes later from a free kick and a crowded box when Kadeisha Buchanan got just enough on the cross to flick it towards goal. Alyssa Naeher had to backtrack and make a diving save, her fingertips being the difference maker between nudging the ball out of play and a conceded goal.
When Rapinoe was pulled down just outside the box, the U.S. pulled out a set piece fresh off the training ground with Rapinoe taking it. U.S. players lined the edges of the wall to block Stephanie Labbé’s vision and then ducked as Rapinoe fired the ball over their heads and towards goal. Labbé had to act quickly to cover it and snuffed out the U.S. attempt.
But the U.S. wouldn’t end the half quietly and pushed to double its lead late in the half with Morgan leading the charge. Unfortunately, Morgan wasn’t able to put away a point-blank header or get a clean shot off of a later bouncing ball in front of goal and the first half ended 1-0 with the U.S. ahead.
The second half had a slower tempo with the Canadians playing out of the back and building possession as they tried to find their way back into the match. Both teams were able to find plenty of possession, but neither could do much with it until the 58th minute when a skipping ball from Crystal Dunn reached a sprinting Morgan. Labbé came out of goal to meet her but was in an awkward position outside the box, unable to get hands on the ball and having to collide with Morgan to disrupt the play. Even with the knock, Morgan was able to get a shot off but without the needed power and Canada defended comfortably.
Despite showing exhaustion as the game wore on, Rapinoe showed she still had some in the tank in the 67th minute when she fired a driven shot from the wing to the far post that Labbé had to dive to push out of play.
The second half became more physical with every minute, with a little bit of a rivalry brewing between Heath and Canadian defender Allysha Chapman that ended with Chapman substituting off as a second yellow card loomed in her future. In her place came midfielder Diana Matheson as Canada aimed to add some attacking options.
But as Canada began to stretch itself more to score, the U.S. was given more avenues to get forward as well. In the 78th minute, Dunn was able to make a deep run from midfield to the end line and weave a pass to Morgan in front of goal with a defender bearing down on her. Morgan had to shoot at a tough angle and the ball went too wide to find the far corner and traveled too quickly for a teammate to tap it in.
But after a frustrating game of missed chances, Morgan finally found the back of the net in the 89th minute to double the team’s lead. A poor clearance by Canada sent the ball to Dunn’s feet and instead of taking a shot, the North Carolina Courage forward found Horan out wide to open things up. Horan picked out her pass into a tight window to Morgan who shot it past Labbé to score her seventh goal of the tournament, 97th internationally, and 17th goal in 17 games in 2018 (and 24th in the last 24).
ALEX MORGAN PUTS THE GAME AWAY! pic.twitter.com/h9ZXBRovxD— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 18, 2018
Morgan’s insurance goal was enough for the U.S. to go on to win the game 2-0 and become Concacaf Women’s Champions for the second straight time. It was a physical and tight game, but the U.S. managed to hold off a strong Canadian team in the toughest game of the tournament for the U.S.
While Morgan and Lavelle will get the glory, the unsung hero of the match was Kelley O’Hara who led a midfield that constantly stopped Canada and intercepted the ball high up the field to create possession and chances for the offense. The U.S. out-shot Canada, 12-4, with 54% of the possession in a tight, rough game that featured five yellow cards.
After her goal, Morgan secured the golden boot for the tournament and the U.S. finished the tournament without conceding and with an incredible 26 goals scored in just five matches. The tournament could not have gone any better for the U.S. as Ellis was able to test out many options without any players being seriously injured in the process. The team will now prepare for the World Cup next summer where the USWNT will be heavy favorites to lift yet another trophy.