Before the 2023 NWSL season began, the Kansas City Current looked ready to build on their run to the 2022 NWSL championship game. The team that made it all the way to the final before falling to the Portland Thorns used the offseason to add depth and looked poised to become the favorites in most matchups, rather than the plucky underdogs.

What happened instead was that the Current became the first team to be eliminated from 2023 playoff contention, likely to finish in either 11th or 12th after the final weekend of the season. A run to the Challenge Cup semifinals notwithstanding (and the organization’s continuously impressive attendance numbers), the season was a disappointment for a team that openly wants to contend for every trophy the NWSL offers.

Was the Current’s problem bad luck or execution? Or were their offseason moves just not as strong as many (myself included) believed? Let’s dive in.

The Lynn Williams trade

In one of the biggest moves of the offseason, Kansas City traded Lynn Williams to Gotham FC in January for the second pick in the 2023 NWSL draft. With the selection, the Current took 20-year-old Michelle Cooper, who was fresh off a standout sophomore season at Duke. The move shocked many, including Williams herself, but the Current had opted for a younger prospect with Williams coming off a long-term hamstring injury.

It’s not fair to directly compare a young NWSL rookie with a veteran counterpart, but Kansas City certainly missed Williams’ output in 2023. In all competitions, Williams has averaged a personal xG of 0.39 per game, scoring nine goals and registering two assists between the regular season and the Challenge Cup. Cooper, while a longer-term project, averaged a personal xG of 0.27 in all competitions, scoring four goals and notching two assists.

Williams also proved to be a distinctly important player in Gotham’s pressing system, immediately making an impact in new manager Juan Carlos Amorós’ style of play that favors one of the best defensive attackers in the league. The 30-year-old looked as comfortable as ever coming back from injury, adjusting to her role at center forward very quickly.

Cooper grew into her season, with an impressive commitment to team defending, and she’ll likely continue to develop into a clinical finisher. But the Current did not see the dividends of their major trade in the same way that Gotham benefitted in 2023.

Lynn Williams is tied for fourth in the NWSL Golden Boot race with seven goals for Gotham in 2023. (Jonathan Jones/USA TODAY Sports)

Free agency fitness struggles

Few teams walked away from the 2023 offseason with more excitement than the Current, who were very ambitious in both their draft strategy and their free agency pick-ups. Kansas City signed Brazilian midfielder Debinha away from North Carolina, which was widely considered the biggest splash of the NWSL’s first-ever free agency period.

They also signed Vanessa DiBernardo and Morgan Gautrat out of Chicago, picked up Swedish international Hanna Glas and re-signed Canada international Desiree Scott. With NWSL clubs able to shape rosters outside of discovery signings or the college draft for the first time this past year, the Current became a team to beat before games began in 2023.

The season played out much differently, however. The Current struggled mightily with injuries: Debinha had a slow start to the season, and Dibernardo and Gautrat never got consistently healthy. Glas, coming off an ACL injury, has yet to make an appearance for the club. The injury bug also extended to other starters, including defender Elizabeth Ball, whose crucial absence resulted in a steep learning curve for a very young backline early in the season.

Kansas City boasts one of the best training facilities in women’s soccer and likely has many learnings to take into 2024 after failing to meet expectations in their third season of NWSL play.

Commitment to coaching

When Kansas City started the 2023 season 0-3, ownership made the swift decision to dismiss head coach Matt Potter, who had led the team to a surprise championship appearance the prior year. Not unlike the Williams trade, bold decision-making appeared to stem from team owners and general manager Camille Ashton. At the time, Potter’s dismissal was chalked up to results and a “lack of collaboration” when others in the front office tried to right the ship.

Assistant coach Caroline Sjöblom took over as interim manager after Potter’s departure and has been a steady presence, even if the team’s regular season results never got a significant boost from the change. Little has been said about Sjöblom’s candidacy for the permanent position once the season is over, but what has appeared to be a methodical coaching search likely also put a limit on what the team could achieve in 2023.

The team may well make a big hiring splash in the offseason — rumors have long swirled around former USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who won two NWSL Championships as head coach of FC Kansas City and still lives in Kansas City. But firing a head coach three games into a regular season and then riding out the rest of the year with an interim manager could also be perceived as indecision following an impulsive move.

The Current haven’t lost their potential for greatness, having shown a new resilience and reinvigorated offense in recent weeks, including a six-goal output against Chicago last weekend. But they’re also dealing with more upheaval than they could have expected at this point, with an expansion draft approaching. Whether they’ll make slight tweaks or more bold moves remains to be seen.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The North Carolina Courage successfully defended their 2022 Challenge Cup title Saturday, taking home the 2023 crown with a 2-0 win over Racing Louisville. With the victory, the club has seven NWSL titles in seven years – two Challenge Cups, three Shields, and two league championships.

After knocking on the door throughout the Challenge Cup, Kerolin got the Courage on the board early and they never looked back. Manaka Matuskubo got the team’s second in the 54th minute, making the 19-year-old the youngest player to score in any NWSL title game and earning her MVP honors.

“It’s a world-class finish,” Courage coach Sean Nahas said of Matuskubo’s strike. “I don’t think anyone else would have thought about hitting that first time out of the air. I think it shows the level of IQ she has. … I’m thrilled for her.

“She was shocked that she won the MVP. But for a 19-year-old to come into this environment and have an impact I think says a lot about her.”

In addition to Matuskubo, who deserves to be among the Best XI for the Challenge Cup semifinals and championship match? Just Women’s Sports makes our picks from the North Carolina Courage, Racing Louisville, OL Reign and Kansas City Current.

2023 NWSL Challenge Cup: Best XI

GK – Casey Murphy (North Carolina)

While the goal scorers were key for the Courage, the USWNT goalkeeper recorded two clean sheets in the semifinals and the final, saving three shots total, to help ensure consecutive Challenge Cup titles for her team.

D – Ryan Williams (North Carolina)

Williams played a key role on the Courage back line, which allowed just three shots on target throughout the Challenge Cup semifinal and final. In the championship match, she won three of her tackles and recorded two interceptions.

D – Malia Berkely (North Carolina)

Against Kansas City in Wednesday’s 1-0 semifinal win, Berkely recorded three tackles and one interception, while recording a game-high 97.7% completion rate on her passes, finishing on 86 of 88 attempts. Against Louisville, she also recorded a shot on target.

D – Phoebe McClernon (OL Reign)

McClernon was all over the field defensively for OL Reign in their semifinal loss to Racing Louisville, recording a game-high six tackles and three interceptions. She also held a 72.4% completion rate on 58 attempted passes, and her 42 completions were second only to teammate Sofia Huerta.

M – Brianna Pinto (North Carolina)

Pinto scored the game-winner in North Carolina’s semifinal matchup against Kansas City in stoppage time to send the team to the Challenge Cup final. While she had just 11 touches, she made the most of them, completing five of six total passes.

M – Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina)

The foundation of North Carolina’s defensive midfield, O’Sullivan winning a game-high seven tackles in the championship match. Against Kansas City in the semifinal, she had an astounding 90.8% completion rate on her passes, and she had two tackles and one block while also recording a shot.

M – Savannah DeMelo (Louisville)

Before leaving for the World Cup with the USWNT, DeMelo was one of Louisville’s best Challenge Cup players. And she picked up where she left off upon her return. Against OL Reign, she had three shots – including one on target – while also recording two tackles and two blocks. Her 0.3 xG was the best for Louisville in that game.

M – Mana Matsukubo (North Carolina)

North Carolina’s 19-year-old midfielder made history in the NWSL Challenge Cup final, earning her a spot on the tournament’s Best XI. She had two shots – both of which were on target – in the final, converting on the one.

F – Kerolin (North Carolina)

The Brazilian star placed among the league’s top shot-takers throughout the Challenge Cup but had not converted until Saturday, when she scored the game-winner against Louisville. She finished the match with five shots, three of them on target. She also played well in the semifinal, recording two shots, one tackle and a team-high four blocks.

F – Michelle Cooper (Kansas City)

The 20-year-old rookie out of Duke had a great semifinal game for the Current, recording a team-high two shots and three tackles. Her 0.6 xG led the Current, and she also had a 72.2% completion rate on her passes.

F – Kirsten Davis (Louisville)

Davis helped Racing Louisville to their first-ever NWSL championship game with a goal against OL Reign in the semifinal. She also had a tackle and a block in that game while completing 78.6% of her passes.

Alyssa Thompson’s face contorted in disgust during Angel City FC’s 0-0 draw Sunday with the Houston Dash. The culprit? HotShot, the spicy cramp prevention concoction wreaking havoc on NWSL taste buds.

The 18-year-old rookie was stretching out her right leg with help from an Angel City trainer late in the match. The trainer handed her a HotShot, which Thompson drank and then immediately regretted.

Billed as “muscle cramp supplement,” HotShot’s ingredients includes sugar and lime juice concentrate but also ginger extract, pepper abstract, sea salt and cassia oil. How does it work? The spicy shot of liquid stimulates the nerves in the athlete’s mouth, which then tricks the nerves in the rest of the body (including those causing the cramps) into stopping their signals.

Kansas City Current rookie Michelle Cooper, who tweeted the video of Thompson’s reaction, received her own unpleasant introduction to HotShot in her team’s 2-1 win Saturday against the Orlando Pride.

“I was just texting Alyssa before the game telling her how shocking that HotShot was. NOW SHE KNOWS!!” Cooper tweeted Sunday.

Thompson confirmed the text exchange between the rookies, though it did not prepare her.

“I texted her and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve never had one of those, thank god. I won’t have one,’” Thompson told Equalizer’s Taylor Vincent after the match. “And then I just cramped up and my trainer was like, ‘You want it?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ And (then they told me), ‘You need to have it.’ So then I had it and it was really gross and I did not like it at all.”

Cooper agreed with Thompson’s assessment, tweeting of her own HotShot: “I don’t know if you guys have ever had one of those….but NEVER again.”

Michelle Cooper made history Sunday, scoring the fastest goal in NWSL history.

The goal also represented a personal milestone for the Kansas City Current rookie as her first regular season NWSL goal.

The former Duke star, who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft, scored just 22 seconds into Sunday’s match. She beat out Rocky Rodriguez’s record of 24.76 seconds set back in 2017. While Cooper had scored her first professional goal in a Challenge Cup match in May, she had not scored during the regular season.

The early goal also marks the first time that a rookie has scored in the opening minute of a match across all NWSL competitions.

Still, the history-making goal was not enough, as Kansas City squandered a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Spirit.

“At the end of the day it comes down to the little moments, and we slipped up in those moments,” Cooper said. “We know we must go into the next game better.”

PHILADELPHIA — Even with Angel City’s No. 1 pick already turned in, Duke sophomore Michelle Cooper found herself in the middle of the biggest bombshell moment of the 2023 NWSL Draft.

The MAC Hermann trophy winner went No. 2 on Thursday, selected by the Kansas City Current after a league-shaking trade that sent U.S. women’s national team forward Lynn Williams to Gotham FC. Cooper is joining one of the most ambitious sides in the league, which acquired a number of high-profile players in the offseason, including Brazilian superstar Debinha and two-time USWNT world champion Morgan Gautrat.

Those kinds of big moves build a level of excitement and expectations that can threaten to swallow a young prospect whole. But on one of the biggest days of her young soccer career, Cooper made sure to keep things in the family.

“I don’t think I’ve completely digested quite yet that my life is gonna do a 180 as of today,” the 20-year-old told Just Women’s Sports the morning of the draft from a hotel room in Philadelphia, as she and her family and coaches prepared for the next step in her career.

The decision to go pro and leave Duke University two years early wasn’t an easy one, especially as many players still choose to exhaust their college eligibility before jumping to the NWSL and beyond. It’s only been four years since Tierna Davidson became the first player to forgo her final year of college and become the first non-senior to enter the NWSL draft.

Cooper’s move reflects both a personal decision and a shifting of norms.

“I made sure to talk with my mom, my sister, especially, and kind of get their viewpoints on it,” Cooper said. “And once I ultimately decided the dreams that I want to chase, going pro would help chase those dreams.”

She’s gotten nothing but support from her coaches at Duke, who have been with her every step of the way, but the final decision ultimately had to be hers.

“It’s definitely like a gut feeling, and that’s something that I trusted,” she said.

Once a top prospect decides to go pro, moving on to the NWSL isn’t a guarantee. Cooper has been tested at the U.S. youth levels and is coming off a season in which she recorded a team-high 19 goals and 11 assists for Duke. Increasingly, homegrown talent have the opportunity to join a growing global market, with past top prospects like Catarina Macario and Jessie Fleming making the choice to go to Europe instead.

(Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When Cooper announced she’d be turning pro, she had to make another personal decision, and again she kept things close to home.

“Ultimately, I’m really close with my family, my mother and my sister, and I didn’t want to be too far away from them, and make sure that they can still visit me and I can still be in close contact with them,” she said. “And that was a lot easier if I stayed in the NWSL.”

Cooper admits entering the draft is daunting, but she went into the process with an open mind. After she had been selected Thursday night, Kansas City general manager Camille Levin Ashton confirmed that Cooper had trained with the Current during Duke’s offseason and had gotten a feel for their environment.

Even before her name was called, Cooper had high praise for the project the Current are building in Kansas City, saying their investment in facilities is one of the greatest examples of league progress, and she described their vision as one other clubs now have to follow.

Current head coach Matt Potter said at the draft that the feeling is mutual.

“The one common denominator is [Cooper and others] have all said, ‘We promise we’ll work hard.’ And the fact that they can follow through with that with the environment we have, the facilities and resources we have, that’s all a top, top player wants,” Potter said.

(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

With her focus now 100 percent on soccer, Cooper also began to field offers from apparel brands, something she didn’t feel she always had time for in college even with the opportunities that came from Name, Image and Likeness rights.

“I honestly didn’t have a lot of experience with NIL (Name, Image and Likeness),” she said. “I was always making sure that I was just focused on doing my part on the field and staying present with my teammates off the field, and obviously making sure that the classroom part is staying up to par as well.”

When the time did come to choose a brand, she followed her instincts once again, signing with New Balance.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” she said. “It’s a private, family-owned company. And that’s honestly what I’m all about, like I said earlier, just being close to my family.”

(Photos courtesy of New Balance)

With the draft finally over, Cooper has the entire world of professional soccer in front of her, joining a league she’s been watching for a long time. When asked if there are current NWSL players she’d like to emulate, she had a typically well-rounded answer.

“Diana Ordoñez, who likes to score headers, that’s one thing I want to do,” she said. “There’s people like Debinha who are just super creative and savvy on the ball, something else that I want to do. And then there’s people like Ali Krieger, who makes slide tackles and puts in the hard work.”

For a player who says she enjoys a game-winning assist as much as a goal, it’s not surprising that, as she transitions into the NWSL, she’s most excited about the connections she’s going to make.

“I’m excited to get to know new people and play with big names, people who’ve made history in women’s soccer,” she said. “To learn from them, to get to know who they are as people, to make friends. That’s what I’m most excited for.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

NWSL Draft day is nearly upon us, and all the players available to be selected have submitted their names.

A few picks appear to be set in stone, but more twists and turns that will shape the 2023 draft class may be awaiting us on Thursday night. Here’s a look at some of the top talent available, and how I think the first round of the draft could shake out.

No. 1: Angel City FC

Alyssa Thompson, F, Harvard-Westlake Prep

This pick is all but finalized, with multiple reports linking Thompson to Angel City after the Los Angeles club traded for the No. 1 pick last week. The 18-year-old officially registered for the draft the day after the trade, opting to go pro rather than attend Stanford. Thompson has huge upside, including the potential to become a USWNT mainstay for the next 15 years. With Angel City, she’ll be able to develop near home under the mentorship of players like Christen Press, Sydney Leroux and Simone Charley.

No. 2: Gotham FC

Michelle Cooper, F, Duke

Gotham needs goals: Enter Michelle Cooper. Cooper would likely be the No. 1 pick without Thompson’s surprise entry into professional soccer, and for good reason. The rising sophomore’s conversion rate in college was scorching, and she has intangibles in spades as the former captain of the USWNT U-20 squad. Inserting Cooper alongside Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu could radically change Gotham’s fortunes in 2023.

No. 3: Orlando Pride

Jenna Nighswonger, M, Florida State

The Pride could go in many different directions with this pick, but they’ll be tempted to pick up Nighswonger, who has the ability to reshape the way the team moves the ball and connects with the attack. More than anything, Orlando’s progress in 2023 could hinge on shoring up the defense. If I were the Pride, I’d take a hard look at Emily Madril or Reyna Reyes, but I think Nighswonger will be too enticing to pass up.

No. 4: Racing Louisville

Emily Madril, D, Florida State

What Louisville should consider with this pick is an offer to change places with Orlando in front of them to ensure they grab Madril, who has Louisville youth connections. But if the Pride are assured in their decision to go for a playmaker, Madril to Louisville makes sense for both sides. The defender fills a major team need and is already familiar with the organization.

NWSL prospect Penelope Hocking played for the U-23 USWNT this past year. (Amanda Loman/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

No. 5: Portland Thorns

Penelope Hocking, F, Penn State

The Thorns should go with an attacker at No. 5, no matter what. There’s a tempting toss-up between Hocking, Alexa Spaanstra and Izzy D’Aquila, though each player has slightly different playing profiles. D’Aquila has had one of the hotter seasons going into the draft, but Hocking is a known product at the U.S. youth levels and was a standout in two different college systems, first at USC and then at Penn State.

No. 6: North Carolina Courage

Alexa Spaanstra, F, Virginia

The Courage currently have three picks in the first round, which gives them some flexibility with their selections. North Carolina will have to figure out how to make up for the loss of Debinha’s output, and they may target a forward right away. Spaanstra is a versatile winger who could work well with Kerolin and former UVA teammate Diana Ordoñez.

No. 7: Chicago Red Stars

Sophie Jones, M, Duke

If Jones makes it to No. 7, Chicago fans will be one of the happiest groups coming out of the first round. Jones has the ability to set the tempo of a game, is a strong player off the ball and is coming off one of her best seasons as a senior. The Red Stars need to shore up their spine as much as they need to add playmakers, and Jones has the potential to be another great defensive midfielder in Chicago.

Reyna Reyes has earned four caps with the Mexican women's national team. (John Blackie/USA TODAY Sports)

No. 8: Houston Dash

Reyna Reyes, D, Alabama

Reyes making it to No. 8 would be a gift to Houston. In this case, the Dash should be quick to select the best player available. It’s unclear exactly how new manager Sam Laity wants to progress the ball, but Reyes is an elite left back who can also play in the midfield and would bring versatility to the Dash that is difficult to defend.

No. 9: North Carolina Courage

Clara Robbins, M, Florida State

Robbins is a game-changer, and even though she’s only now making the jump to the pros, she’s got plenty of experience: The redshirt senior played 110 games in college, the second most in women’s college soccer history. The Courage are currently in the midst of a midfield rejuvenation project, and Robbins could be the perfect fit for their new system.

No. 10: Kansas City Current

Jyllissa Harris, D, South Carolina

With Kristen Edmonds off to Gotham FC, the Current need center-back depth, and Harris is one of the top prospects at the position. South Carolina conceded only 15 goals in 2022 with Harris as the cornerstone, and in an aggressive wingback system, the Current can use a defender with a calm head under pressure.

No. 11: North Carolina Courage

Messiah Bright, F, TCU

North Carolina could use this space for a defender, but with Kaleigh Kurtz’s contract extension and Abby Erceg’s retirement from international play, the Courage also have room to go all-in on attacking talent. Bright is a TCU standout with a consistent track record, having averaged a goal every other game throughout her college career.

No. 12: Portland Thorns

Summer Yates, M, Washington

For their second pick in the first round, the Thorns could stay relatively close to home. Summer Yates was a standout midfielder at the University of Washington, leading the team in goals and assists in 2022. As a hybrid attacking midfielder/forward, she could provide a spark when Portland’s internationals are away during the World Cup period.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Michelle Cooper is the winner of this year’s Mac Hermann trophy after previously having been a semifinalist for the award in 2021.

She was announced as the 2022 recipient on Friday,becoming the first women’s Blue Devil to win the award in the program’s 35-year history. She also became the first player to win since 2011, when men’s player Andrew Wegner won it.

“When they announced my name, it was surreal,” said Cooper. “I didn’t know how to feel. It’s insane to think that I just have now won the same award as people I look up to like Mia Hamm, Crystal Dunn, Kristine Lilly. It’s just surreal.”

Cooper beat out Notre Dame’s Korbin Albert and Florida State’s Jenna Nighswonger.

It caps off a career-year in which Cooper also won 2022 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and a second-consecutive First Team All-America nod. She recently entered the NWSL Draft after scoring a school-record 49 points this season.

Duke sophomore Michelle Cooper announced on Monday that she’ll be foregoing her remaining college eligibility to begin her professional soccer career in 2023.

“This was such a difficult decision, but one that I made with my heart and the people I trust dearly,” the 20-year-old wrote in a statement. The Blue Devils’ 2022 season ended in a quarterfinal loss to Alabama in November, in which Cooper scored a brace.

Transitioning to the professional game won’t be a huge leap for Cooper, who scored 19 goals and registered 11 assists this season, leading Duke in both categories by a significant margin.

She also captained the U-20 U.S. women’s national team in both the Concacaf Championship and the World Cup, scoring eight goals in Concacaf qualifying to win the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. She scored her final U-20 goal in the World Cup in August, as the U.S. bowed out of a very difficult group stage.

Cooper’s credentials place her in the upper echelon of young American-born talent, but her jump to the pros is also a larger reflection of the way the sport is changing.

Traditionally, even the top women’s college players would sometimes choose to stay in school for their full eligibility, valuing a college scholarship and degree over a professional salary. But as salary opportunities grow year after year in the professional game, norms have begun to change, and Cooper might be just the first of several underclassmen this year to make the same decision.

Tierna Davidson and Sophia Smith left Stanford early to become the first picks in their respective NWSL College Drafts, but both had already featured for the U.S. women’s national team, lending more weight to the decision. Cooper has yet to be called into the U.S. senior team, but she joins a growing group of prospects who have chosen to develop outside of the college game.

Ashley Sanchez (since capped with the USWNT), Brianna Pinto and Mia Fishel made similar decisions to leave college after their junior years. Emily Madril of Florida State recently made a unique jump of her own, forgoing her college eligibility to sign with the NWSL directly, and then going on loan before joining the league through the 2023 College Draft.

Adding to the ease of the process are Name, Image and Likeness rights, which allow college players to sign with an agency without having to make a quick decision to give up NCAA eligibility. Cooper, before her big announcement, had already signed with Wasserman Group (which represents a number of USWNT and NWSL players) and New Balance.

Fans in the U.S., however, will have to wait to see if Cooper follows Pinto and Sanchez to the NWSL, or if she takes a page from Fishel and Catarina Macario’s book and jumps at an opportunity abroad. U.S.-based clubs have the benefit of the NWSL’s new CBA, but Cooper wouldn’t yet qualify for allocation money — setting her salary limit at a non-allocated max contract, which is currently $75,000.

The NWSL also doesn’t have the benefit of player choice for those entering the league; even top talent has to opt into the College Draft. Unlike basketball, the NWSL is competing with leagues that don’t adhere to parity rules, and they occasionally lose talent that wants to be in control of their own destiny.

Whether she hears her name called on the NWSL Draft stage in Philadelphia in January or makes a splashy signing abroad, Cooper is ready for the next level. Fans will just have to wait and see where she takes her talents.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team clinched their seventh Concacaf title on Saturday, defeating Mexico 2-0 in the tournament’s championship game.

Michelle Cooper opened up scoring early, dispossessing Mexico’s goalkeeper in the third minute to tap the ball into an open net, putting the U.S. up 1-0.

Saturday’s finish marked Cooper’s eighth goal of the tournament, earning her Golden Boot honors as the competition’s top goal scorer. The 19-year-old also won the Golden Ball award as Concacaf’s best player.

Talia DellaPeruta added to the team’s lead in the 41st minute, converting a penalty kick from the spot to put her side up 2-0 before the half.

The U.S. held onto their lead through the second half for a 2-0 victory to take home the Concacaf title.

Already securing their spot in the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup with a semifinal victory, the U.S.’ final win was the icing on the cake.

“I am just so grateful, we all sacrificed so much to be here,” said Cooper following the match. “It’s been years in the making due to COVID-19, so I’m just really proud of all my teammates and we’re all just really excited to come out of here with gold.”