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U.S women’s soccer team beats Canada, wins gold medal

United States Tobin Heath, second from left,

United States Tobin Heath, second from left, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Canada during the second half of the CONCACAF Olympic women's soccer qualifying championship final Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, in Houston. Photo Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

HOUSTON — It should not come as a surprise that the U.S. women’s soccer team walked off the field Sunday with gold medals hanging around its players’ necks.

The team dominated the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship from start to finish, not allowing a goal in five games and finished it with a solid 2-0 win over Canada.

Yet, they have their actual sights set on a much more prestigious gold medal in Rio come August. That’s what the world champions and three-time defending Olympic champions demand of themselves.

“That’s our goal,” midfielder Crystal Dunn said. “Of course, it’s great to be wearing gold right now, but our ultimate objective is to win the Olympics and bring home the gold. This is a real great feeling for us, bragging rights in a sense, but ultimately we’re ready to go to Rio.”

Although the Rockville Centre native played only seven minutes as a substitute Sunday, she was named the Golden Boot winner as the top-goal scorer (six) of the tournament.

“It’s exciting to step away from this tournament with a trophy,” said Dunn, who earned her second Golden Boot within six months after securing the National Women’s Soccer League scoring title last summer.

Dunn was among nine U.S. players who were honored. Eight teammates were named to the all-tournament team, including midfielder Morgan Brian, the Golden Ball winner as the top player.

Much like the way they have dominated tournaments, the Americans kept the Canadians on their heels until Lindsey Horan headed in her second international goal off defender Becky Sauerbrunn’s long air ball in the 53rd minute. Eight minutes later, Tobin Heath fired in a pass from 17-year-old Mallory Pugh for a 2-0 lead.

“I was really pleased on how we committed to try and play,” USA coach Jill Ellis said. “We just stayed with it. We deserved to win. It was a good step on where we want to go with this team.”

Yet, there seems to be room for improvement.

“We’re getting there,” Sauerbrunn said. “I still think we have a few levels left to go. Our potential, we’re not close to reaching it yet . . . We are just scratching the surface in a lot of areas where we can really master and become experts at.”

Now, that’s one scary thought for a team aiming to win its fourth Olympic gold medal in a row.

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