The CONCACAF W Championship will conclude with the final match, as the United States Women’s National Team takes on border rival Canada. There’s nothing like a rivalry game, but adding a championship trophy to the mix makes it much more compelling.
With Canada’s win over Jamaica, that’s the final set: USWNT vs Canada. First time it’s going to be for more than bragging rights. They can’t both qualify for the Olympics on Monday— Claire Watkins (@ScoutRipley) July 15, 2022
Canada and the USWNT have squared off 63 times, with the Stars & Stripes holding a 51-4-7 record over the ladies from the North. Both units have dominated their groups in this tournament, each carrying a +9 goal differential in their 3 wins.
Canada began CONCACAF group play with a 6-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago. Five different players scored in the opening match, with legendary striker Christine Sinclair scoring the first goal of the tournament for Canada. However, the next two matches seemed to be more of a struggle, with a frustrating 1-0 victory over Panama — a game that may have set the record for most cramps in a game — and a 2-0 win against Costa Rica to complete group play.
Jesse Fleming and Julia Grosso lead the team with three goals apiece. Canada's attack has been nothing short of strong, thanks to Fleming and Grosso, but also pressing fullbacks like Ashley Lawrence and Jayde Riviere. The subs have also contributed to Canada's success, which appeared in the 3-0 semifinal victory against the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica. After subbing in the 53rd minute, it only took 11 minutes for Adrianna Leon to connect with Allyssa Chapman. Chapman finished the goal with a spectacular running header, her second international goal in 91 caps.
The USWNT walked into the tournament as the outstanding favorites, but there were questions, mainly because of the youth movement initiated by head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Andonoski has spoken openly about the growing pains of the younger players' first meaningful international tournament. The third-year head coach, after each game, has said the victories are good, but the team still has technical issues to work on. It was evident in the 2-0 victory against Haiti and 1-0 victory against rivals Mexico.
The veterans on the squad, such as Megan Rapinoe — who has been a solid reserve, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kristie Mewis, and Alex Morgan, have made sure the best team in the world remains as such.
Still, the youth movement has been fun to watch. Andonovski did a great job of mixing young and veteran talent. Nine players combined for 12 total goals in the CONCACAF W Championship; Sophia Smith, Morgan, and Mewis lead the team with two goals apiece.
Mallory Pugh, Midge Purce, Trinity Rodman, and Naomi Girma have been in great form and contributed solid minutes either as reserves or in the starting XI. While the growing pains are apparent, these younger players have managed to not falter at the moment.
The actual test will come against Canada, though. The youth movement passed the test of playing a big game on international soil against Mexico, who played way below average during the CONCACAF W Championship. It wasn't the best performance, and the game-winner didn't come until the game's final minutes. Nevertheless, the 1-0 win left questions about whether or not the team is ready for World Cup play.
Canada proved they were one of the world's elite when they defeated the USWNT in the 2020 Olympics. It was the introduction of Bev Priestman of Canada and Andonovski as coaches of the national teams. Both are looking to claim their first World Cup title as a coach, but there are historical benchmarks for the country; Canada is aiming for the nation's first World Cup ever, and the USWNT is looking to be the first national team — men or women — to win three straight World Cup titles.
First, the two must meet Monday.
Canada offers a significant challenge to the USWNT youth movement. Aside from Mexico, the USWNT hasn't seen the type of talent or pressure Canada can bring. In addition, the technical struggles Andonovski speaks of can be detrimental. Andonovski said the team isn't looking for revenge for the 2020 Tokoyo loss, but Priestman believes otherwise.
The USWNT youth movement is the main story and concern, but to win this game, the veterans will have to dominate. Instead of playing supporting roles, the veterans have to make their presence known early in this game to help set the tempo and elevate the play of the younger players such as Smith, Purce, and Pugh, who will likely play important roles in the game.