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USA beats Canada 2-0 to close out CONCACAF Olympic qualifying

It was a scrappy game, but the US fought to a 2-0 win.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Starting XI: Hope Solo, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelley O'Hara, Morgan Brian, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, Alex Morgan

USA vs. Canada always promises to be, if not a breathtaking display of football, at the very least an entertaining time. Today was no exception.

Jill Ellis fielded the same starting XI from last game while John Herdman opted to rotate much of his squad, leaving out starters such as Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, and Sophie Schmidt. Herdman instead populated his roster with youths like Rebecca Quinn, Ashely Lawrennce, and Nichelle Prince, as well as looking to up-and-comers like Shelina Zadorsky.

US Soccer's own youth phenom, Mallory Pugh, joined their starting XI, which may indicate that she has found favor in Ellis' eyes over older players like Stephanie McCaffrey. Pugh had her moments in the game, finding space here and there to run and looking composed under pressure. Pugh got nearly a full 90 against her toughest opposition yet, in every sense of the word, and did well to connect with other players.

Canada came out in a hard press in the first fifteen minutes, but then dropped off as the half progressed and turned to disrupting American possession. Canada kept the midfield lanes fairly clogged, forcing play out wide. The United States had some decent crosses into the box off that wide play, but their best chances just missed the goal.

Canada was chippy and physical - physical to the point of getting lucky to not get carded - for the first half and it certainly worked; the US wasn't able to build much of a passing rhythm or keep consistent possession for long stretches. They looked fairly frustrated to have not scored going into the second half.

The second half started with no subs and continued movement on the wings. Then, finally the breakthrough in the 53', with Becky Sauerbrunn serving a very nice ball into the box, where Lindsey Horan was able to run past defenders and get her head on it.

Sauerbrunn's delivery on the goal was a contrast to Julie Johnston's forays forward; Johnston has typically been the one out of the center back pairing to move up, circumstances permitting, but tonight her passing was not optimal and a few times she gave up the ball when she ran out of space.

US passing in general was not optimal, and there were some choppy periods in the second half when the team seemed off kilter and unaware of each other. For all that, the US got a second goal in the 61' with Pugh sliding the ball all the way across the box, where Tobin Heath was making a late run and was able to one-time it prettily into the net.

Canada had a good stretch of attacking in the second half once their subs came on for the last 30 minutes, probing for a goal while the US sat back and absorbed the pressure. But spring free of the pressure they did, subbing in Christen Press for Alex Morgan in the 72' and Crystal Dunn for Lindsey Horan in the 83'.

Morgan had a mostly quiet night, smothered as she was by a wary Canadian defense, while Lindsey Horan had her ups and downs. Horan's distribution wasn't quite where you'd want to see it to feel comfortable against Canada, or a country like Germany, and Ellis might be ready to call time on this experiment so she can once again play Horan forward, if she's looking to player her forward at all.

The game ended with the US burning off time in the corner, letting the minutes count down to a win. It wasn't the prettiest or most put-together victory and Canada did threaten even without Sinclair on the field, but the team lasted the distance even with an obviously exhausted Carli Lloyd and a lineup that is still working out its kinks.

Individual tournament awards were handed out after the game and three USWNT players took home hardware.

Golden Glove: Hope Solo
Golden Boot: Crystal Dunn
Golden Ball: Morgan Brian

The United States also took home the Fair Play award, while Solo, Brian, Kelley O'Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd were named to the tournament best XI.

Next up for the US: the She Believes tournament starting March 3, in which the team will face England, France, and Germany.