Going into the final of the Concacaf W Championship, the USA had faced some spirited efforts, but never had to deal with an opponent that had more than a punchers chance against them. That would not be the case as the team took on their North American rivals Canada. The Canadian team is clearly capable of winning against the USA and gave the Americans a run for their money in the match.
The USA lined up with an XI that says a lot about what Vlatko thinks of some of the younger players starting a huge game at this stage of Olympic qualification looking ahead to the World Cup. Alyssa Naeher got the start in goal over Casey Murphy as her experience gave her an edge in the final selection.
Canada set out a team with a lot of experience as nine of the players were on the field when the teams met in the 2020 Olympics.
In the end, the USA overcame a stellar effort from Kailen Sheridan in goal who made improbable save after improbable save. Canada had their moments and the result of the match was never certain, but as the game wore on the USA settled into having the upper hand and majority of the chances. Things would pay off thanks to a penalty converted by Alex Morgan on the way to a 1-0 victory.
Gifs of... saves, incredible saves
The USA would start off fast as Mal Pugh forced Kailen Sheridan into a save in the first minute. Canada wouldn’t be outdone as Nichelle Prince had a few chances early as the game settled into a back and forth contest. The matchup between Prince and Sophia Huerta would be one that Canada would try to test time and again, the Americans would find their own weakness to exploit on the flanks when Canada gave up possession with numbers forward.
We see you, Nichelle Prince pic.twitter.com/7zRf4cdVVf— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 19, 2022
Each team created solid chances, but neither managed to score or put their opponents on their heels for long stretches. Much of that was thanks to Sheridan who was tested time and again but came up big with saves on ever American effort.
KAILEN SHERIDAN IS COMING UP HUGE FOR CANADA TONIGHT.— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 19, 2022
How did she catch that?! pic.twitter.com/zMVqG10IWf
As if to put a finer point on this, in the 45th minute Huerta put an inch perfect ball into the zone of uncertainty, Sheridan stayed on her line as Sophia Smith fired a point blank shot that Sheridan blocked before smothering the rebound.
SOPHIA SMITH WITH THE BEST CHANCE OF THE NIGHT FOR THE USWNT SO FAR. pic.twitter.com/SgEgZe4ysg— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 19, 2022
The second half began where the first ended as the Americans picked up on the momentum that was building in the opening 45. It seemed like the USA would be rewarded for their persistence when Sophia Smith had a chance on an open goal that she couldn’t convert.
SOPHIA SMITH MISSES AN OPEN NET FOR THE USWNT. pic.twitter.com/n8JOqviUXF— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 19, 2022
10 minutes later, the path forward for the opener would be revealed when Rose Lavelle was fouled in the box by Allysha Chapman in the 75th minute. Alex Morgan stepped up and banged home the go-ahead goal to give the USA a 1-0 lead.
Canada went all out trying to equalize with the remaining 15 minutes in the match. Their efforts would nearly be rewarded when Ashley Lawrence fired in a shot from the left that was just off frame.
ASHLEY LAWRENCE DROPPED ROSE LAVELLE AND ALMOST EQUALIZED. pic.twitter.com/uSeyDIDECG— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 19, 2022
While Vlatko had made early subs in past matches, it wouldn’t be until the 89th minute that he’d go to the bench against Canada swapping Midge Purce, Trinity Rodman, and Naomi Girma for Mal Pugh, Sophia Smith, and Alex Morgan. After six minutes of injury time, and a last minute save from Naeher on a shot from distance, the USA would hold onto the lead and come away as W Championship Champions with tickets booked to the World Cup and Olympics.