US advances to W Championship final against Canada
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — The U.S. women’s national team will play Canada in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship for a spot in the 2024 Olympics.
The United States beat Costa Rica 3-0 in the semifinals Thursday night on goals from Emily Sonnett, Mallory Pugh and Ashley Sanchez. Canada downed Jamaica 3-0 in the late game to earn the other spot Monday night in the championship.
The four teams had already qualified for the region’s berths at the 2023 Women’s World Cup as the top finishers in the group stage. The winner of the W Championship additionally earns one of the region’s spots in the Olympics.
The U.S. team extended its shutout streak in World Cup or Olympic qualifying matches to 32 games.
“I think we need to be overall sharper,” Sonnett said about facing Canada. “I don’t think our team’s very satisfied with that win. There’s a lot that we need to focus on.”
The United States has won the past two World Cups, but the Americans are heading into next summer’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand with a different look. Coach Vlatko Andonovski has focused on developing young talent since winning the bronze medal at last year’s Olympics, and up-and-coming players including Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh have cracked the starting lineup.
A few veterans remain, including Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn, who both started Thursday.
Morgan had the team’s best chances early on. One of her opportunities, a left-footed shot, went wide left in the 13th minute.
Defender Sonnett broke through with her first international goal in the 33rd minute. Pugh scored her first goal of the tournament in first-half stoppage time — with a backheel assist from Rose Lavelle — to give the United States a 2-0 lead at the break.
Sanchez capped the victory with her goal in stoppage time.
Casey Murphy got the starting nod in goal for the United States.
“Obviously, it’s a semifinal, we’re here to go to the final, to win the final,” Murphy said. “That was one step to get to there.”
For Costa Rica, Noelia Bermudez made the first start of the tournament in goal. Costa Rica won its first two group-stage matches before falling to Canada 2-0 on Monday.
Jessie Fleming scored for Canada in the 18th minute of the late game at Estadio Universitario. The conditions were muggy, with temperatures in the mid-90s at the start of the night.
Allysha Chapman added a goal on a header in the 64th minute. It was her first international goal since 2015. Adriana Leon scored in the 76th.
In addition to the four direct berths in the World Cup, the third-place finishers in the two groups at the W Championship, Panama and Haiti, advanced to an intercontinental playoff in February in New Zealand.
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