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Concacaf Olympic qualifying final: USA Canada

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Tired? Who said anyone on the USWNT was tired?

Canada v United States: Final - 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Emily Sonnett, Abby Dahlkemper, Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Lynn Williams, Jess McDonald

For once, the United States didn’t floor it in the first five minutes of a game. They didn’t have to, with opponents Canada looking a little slow, their exhaustion natural after such a short turnaround from Concacaf Olympic qualifying semifinals. The United States seemed content to offer pressure where they could, but to not go full bore all over the field all the time, as is their wont.

Still, with a little rotation, they did have fresher legs on the pitch, and the Williams - Press - McDonald front line offered a lot of early pressure on Canada’s back four, pushing a couple of turnovers into wide space as Canada tried to build out of the back. If the defense managed to connect through the middle, then midfield pressure also pressed back, keeping Canada sitting quite deep for the first 30 minutes. But they stayed organized in defense, occasionally probing outwards through wide play, every once in a while poking something into space for Christine Sinclair in a striker role. The US’ poking at the box was ineffectual, lobbing a few testing balls in for the goalkeeper to collect or for the center backs to play out again. Some plays would probably have generated a goal with fresh legs running into the box, but as it was, the pace simply wasn’t there.

Canada began returning the favor after that initial weathering. They kept playing balls in, and Sinclair was able to get behind Krieger several times. She was nearly through on a precisely weighted ball out of midfield in the 38’, but Alyssa Naeher was sharp off her line and was able to get in Sinclair’s way. There were a couple of other fleeting chances for Sinclair, who was making the most of Krieger not seeming quite calibrated to her marker, but the half ended in a tepid 0-0.

The second half started off with more energy, McDonald picking off a pass in the midfield and playing in Williams, but Williams’ shot didn’t have enough angle to beat the keeper. Both Lavelle and Horan picked up the pace and began using their movement around the edge of the box to pull the defense out of shape. Williams also began taking on Lawrence and winning their one-on-ones, laying in dangerous crosses that, while not being converted, at least earned corner kicks.

The goal came in the 60’. Canada’s Jayde Riviere made a mistake, laying off an attempted defensive clearance right into Williams’ path, feeding her the ball so nicely that it almost looked like an intentional assist. Williams teed it up and blasted a rocket into the netting.

The US made two subs after that, bringing on Megan Rapinoe for McDonald and Sam Mewis for Lavelle in the 62’. The exhaustion really became evident for Canada after this. Balls kept getting picked off as midfielders stepped to the passing channel and in the end, Lindsey Horan was put in with multiple defenders around her who seemed powerless to stop her.

Canada kept pushing for a goal, a beautiful feed from Sinclair putting in Janine Beckie, whose shross shaved just past the far post.

The US made their last sub in the 81’ as Kelley O’Hara came on for Christen Press. Yes, you read that right, Kelley O’Hara got subbed in as a midfielder, leaving the back line unchanged. And why not, with Canada so obviously tired. O’Hara helped the US keep attacking Canada’s left side, where Horan and Williams seemed to settled into a groove. Williams helped set up the third US goal, playing in a really nice threaded ball to Megan Rapinoe, who made a simple run into space and finished easily in the 87’.

The US continued putting balls behind the back line until stoppage, and then ended things at 3-0 for a mostly definitive win.

Overall, this game was another reminder that the United States probably has one of, if not the most fittest teams in the world, which combined with the depth of their roster to eventually run rings around a weary Canada. They might have had some trouble breaking down Canada’s early defense, but only because they were playing in low gear. Once they took it up a few notches - and not even particularly to full speed - they mostly dominated. There were some defensive concerns with the Krieger - Dahlkemper pairing, which was vulnerable to a canny attacker facing up to goal and taking off past Krieger. Vlatko Andonovksi may not feel like working that out through SheBelieves, but his other main option right now, when Becky Sauerbrunn needs a rest, is to bring Sonnett back inside, and Sonnett may not measure up when Krieger has demonstrated such clear improvement at starting attacks.

To recap: qualified for the Olymipcs? Check. No major injuries? Check, as far as we know. Nice roster rotation within a clear system of play? Check and check. See you at SheBelieves.