The U.S. women’s national soccer team fought to a gritty 1-0 victory Monday against host Mexico to clinch the top spot in Group A at the Concacaf W Championship.
The result knocks Mexico out of World Cup qualifying. Jamaica earned second place in the group and the group’s second World Cup berth with a 3-0 win against Haiti.
For the USWNT, the Mexico matchup provided highlights and lowlights ahead of the tournament’s semifinals.
The USWNT struggled to find its offensive tempo against Mexico, with the squad logging just two shots on goal in the opening half. Mexico, for its part, disrupted its opponent’s attack, effectively blunting the United States’ rhythm.
When asked about the team’s lack of creativity following the match, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski gave all credit to Mexico.
“Sometimes it’s not us. Sometimes it’s how much the opponent allows things to happen … [Mexico] was making it very hard for us … If we don’t score early the game will be difficult,” Andonovski told reporters.
The USWNT has been eager to give minutes to a range of players, with few lines given time to gel. Perhaps that has shown itself in the lack of chemistry.
Monday’s starting lineup featured seven changes from Thursday’s lineup against Jamaica. Emily Sonnett took the place of Emily Fox, who is out due to COVID-19 protocol. Becky Sauerbrunn slotted back into the defensive line, replacing Alana Cook, while Kelly O’Hara replaced Sofia Huerta. Casey Murphy got the start in net over Alyssa Naeher, while Andi Sullivan started in the defensive midfield position, pushing Rose Lavelle out of the starting XI. In the attack, Alex Morgan and Margaret Purce replaced an injured Ashley Hatch and a resting Mallory Pugh.
Purce was a bright spot in an otherwise stressed USWNT attack, with the Gotham star dominating the wing and creating the most dangerous chances for her side.
After an arduous first two halves, the USWNT finally found its breakthrough goal in the 89th minute, as Kristie Mewis bodied in a deflected Sonnett header. The play was reviewed for a potential offside call on Sonnett, but the ruling on the field stood, upholding the USWNT’s lone goal of the match.
KRISTIE IN THE 89TH 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸pic.twitter.com/8RhSJz4pXJ— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 12, 2022
KRISTIE IN THE 89TH 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸pic.twitter.com/8RhSJz4pXJ
Naomi Girma has had an excellent showing during the Concacaf W Championship, slotting into the center-back role alongside Cook and then Sauerbrunn. The 22-year-old continued to show her potential in the Mexico game, winning one-on-one defensive battles with apparent ease.
The San Diego Wave star’s ability to distribute also has been on display, as she has served precise long balls into the USWNT attack. While the Concacaf group stage hasn’t been the most illuminating for defensive tests, Girma has made a case for herself in the team’s center-back pool.
Mexico’s fans showed out to watch their team take on the USWNT, with 20,522 fans packing the Estadio Universitario in Monterrey. The crowd is what Mexico was waiting for all tournament long after lackluster turnout.
The fans were raucous, packing the venue and staying loud throughout the match. The USWNT hasn’t played in such an environment in quite some time, giving the younger players a critical look into international tournament atmosphere.
Andonovski credited the impassioned crowd for affecting his team’s focus.
“As the atmosphere was getting fired up, our team started losing focus on the tempo,” Andonovski told media. “We had very good control of the tempo until the atmosphere started getting ramped and then our players started falling into the trap. That’s where the inexperience comes in.”
The USWNT continues its quest for the Concacaf W Championship title at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, when the team will face Costa Rica in the tournament semifinals.