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Three takeaways from USWNT’s 5-0 qualifying win over Jamaica

Mallory Pugh battles with Allyson Swaby of Jamaica during the USWNT's 5-0 win Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The United States women’s national team continued to dominate Group A at the Concacaf W Championship, thumping Jamaica 5-0 Thursday, three days after blanking Haiti 3-0 in the opener.

Thursday’s shutout puts the USWNT in a prime position to qualify for the World Cup. The team has the advantage of an eight-point goal differential entering the group-stage finale against Mexico on Monday.

Here are three takeaways from the USWNT’s shutout of Jamaica.

Young USWNT defense keeps a clean sheet

Two new faces joined the USWNT’s backline against Jamaica. Naomi Girma and Sophia Huerta replaced veterans Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn, who anchored the backline against Haiti in Monday’s Concacaf opener.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s rotation paid off early, with Girma and Huerta each logging assists in the first half and serving impressive long balls up the field to Sophia Smith.

Girma played alongside Alana Cook at center back, and the two shut down Jamaican sensation Khadija “Bunny” Shaw with apparent ease. The pair’s chemistry was evident, after the two played together for a year at Stanford.

The young defenders have a combined 15 USWNT caps compared to Sauerbrunn’s 204 international appearances. Andonovski has been eager to usher in young talent and build chemistry with the team’s seasoned leaders. The success of the Girma-Cook combination could complicate Andonovski’s plans, as the coach has yet to cement a go-to lineup ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

Sophia Smith shines

Smith put her mark on Thursday’s matchup early, notching a brace in the opening eight minutes of the game.

In the fifth minute, Smith sprinted into the box before beating her defender and striking the ball with the outside of her boot for the go-ahead goal. Three minutes later, Smith got on the end of a Huerta long ball to double the USWNT’s lead.

Thursday marked Smith’s eighth start of the year, tying her with defenders Cook and Emily Fox for the most by any USWNT player in 2022. With each game, the 21-year-old appears to be solidifying herself as the foundation of the team’s forward lineup.

Smith is currently tied for the most goals in the Concacaf Championship with two, alongside teammate Alex Morgan and Canada’s Julia Grosso.

After a prolific 45 minutes, Smith was replaced by Midge Purce at the break as part of Andonovski’s effort to get a range of players minutes.

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Andonovski has been known to rotate players often, and his approach to the Concacaf W Championship has been no different. The USWNT coach made five switches from his starting lineup against Haiti, including the swap in the backline. Alyssa Naeher replaced Casey Murphy in goal, Ashley Sanchez took over for Andi Sullivan in the midfield, and Ashley Hatch got the start over Alex Morgan in the attack.

Five substitutes came on in the second half, further shaking things up for the USWNT. Emily Sonnett relieved Emily Fox at left back, while Purce took over for Smith at the break. Then, in a surprise move, Trinity Rodman came on for Hatch at the No. 9 position, a role the 20-year-old rarely fills.

Kristie Mewis and Taylor Kornieck also got minutes, replacing midfielders Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan.

The heavy rotation from Andonvski gave players new looks, with Rodman scoring her second career USWNT goal and Mewis notching her first international penalty to lead the squad to an emphatic 5-0 victory over Jamaica.

Andonovski’s lineup changes continue to sow speculation about starting positions and roster movement ahead of the 2023 World Cup cycle.