FRISCO, Texas — There’s no stopping the U.S. women these days. At least not in CONCACAF.
The defending Women’s World Cup champions continued to flex their muscles and reminded the crowd at Toyota Stadium and TV viewers why they are still FIFA’s top-ranked team by recording a 2-0 victory over Canada in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship final on Wednesday night.
The fifth-ranked Canadians are no slouches themselves as they posted the sternest test for the USA in this competition. In fact, if the Americans have any designs of repeating as world champions and win an unprecedented fourth title, it will have to defeat the likes of Canada in France next June and July.
While both sides already qualified for the WWC by capturing their respective semifinal matches on Sunday, the teams battled through a physical and sometimes contentious match in what was considered by many observers to be the best game of the tournament. Referee Lucila Venegas gave Canada four yellow cards, the U.S. one.
The Americans, who outscored their opponents in the competition, 26-0, extended their unbeaten streak to 26 games (23-0-3).
“It feels really good,” USA head coach Jill Ellis said. “It feels like a starting point as where we want to be. This is a good start not to concede a goal in the tournament.
“When you play your rivals in a tournament like this, a lot of times its heart and will.”
As in their previous four games, the Americans scored their first goal inside the opening nine minutes to put their foes on their backfoot.
Lindsey Horan started the scoring sequence with a left-wing feed to the middle of the box. A defender deflected the ball to Rose Lavelle, who drilled the ball past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe into the lower right corner.
Alex Morgan gave the USA some breathing room in the 89th minute. Megan Rapinoe floated a corner kick into the box that was headed out by a defender to Horan. She tapped the ball to Rockville Centre’s Crystal Dunn, who fed Morgan as the striker slipped home her tournament-leading seventh goal and 97th international score.
“You have to close out games and it was a good lesson tonight,” Ellis said.
USA midfielder Julie Ertz won the Golden Ball at MVP. The Americans placed eight players on the Best XI — defenders Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper and Dunn, midfielders Horan and Ertz and forwards Tobin Heath, Rapinoe and Morgan.
LIer helps Jamaica
Goalkeeper Nicole McClure, who helped the East Meadow Shooting Stars (Long Island Junior Soccer League) to the Girls Under-15 title at the 2005 Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association State Cup, played hero for Jamaica as it became the first Caribbean country to qualify for the WWC. McClure, who hadn’t played in the tournament until she replaced regular Sydney Schneider in the 120th minute of the third-place match, saved two penalty kicks as the Reggae Girlz won the shootout, 4-2 shootout. The two teams played to a 2-2 draw.