United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s (USWNT) head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, posted another line-up Monday night when his senior team faced off with south-of-the-border rival Mexico in the finale of group play of Concacaf Women’s Championship tournament in hot and humid Monterrey, Mexico.
His team had steamrolled to victories against Haiti and Jamaica; however, the constantly testing, developing and refining skipper chose to deploy seven different players from the XI that started the U.S.‘s July 7 match with Jamaica.
His starters and substitutes all had to work hard to defeat a resilient Mexico team that held off the Yanks, even with ten players, until the final minutes of regulation play when the U.S. finally broke through and scored.
“We really wanted some adversity, and we got it,” said Becky Sauerbrunn, Team USA’s captain, after the heated match. “It’s not very often we get to play in front of a crowd like this. They really came out to support the home team, so it was good. It was adversity.”
Andonovski added, “As the atmosphere was getting fired up, our team started losing the focus of the tempo. We had very good control of the tempo until the atmosphere started getting rattled a little bit, and then our players started falling into the trap.” He continued, ”I was coaching a big part of the game with a smile on my face because to some degree, we want that. We wanted to see that.”
Coloradan’s Lindsey Horan and Sofia Smith both earned starts and had a chance to score, yet Lady Luck denied them both. In the 43rd minute of play, Horan had her best chance to score and just missed finding the back of the net.
A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE USWNT.— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) July 12, 2022
Midge Purce's impressive run to feed an open Lindsey Horan goes right into the arms of Itzel González. pic.twitter.com/bAEfO3i7aw
It wasn’t until Andonovski called up his newest addition to the tournament’s roster, 6’ 1” University of Colorado standout Taylor Kornieck from the bench, that the game finally flipped. She came in for forward Alex Morgan at the 80th minute and promptly got to work. Given her prominence, Kornieck quickly became a go-to target on set pieces. However, this time, it was the former Buff’s turn to deliver the ball.
After a corner kick from the left side of the pitch was taken short, Megan Rapinoe crossed the ball to the far post. The cross found midfielder Ashley Sanchez, who quickly played it back to a free Kornieck, who was well within the 18-yard box. She delivered an elegant chip towards the mouth of the goal, where defender Emily Sonnett attempted an on-point header. Mexico’s Itzel Gonzalez made a swell deflecting save, but an incoming Kristie Mewis met the rebounding ball and bodied it across the goal line.
Throughout group phase play, Coloradan’s Horan, Pugh, and Smith, along with C.U.’s Kornieck, all have contributed mightily to the Lady Yanks' successes.
Smith earned her 19th cap as she made her team-leading ninth start of 2022 against Mexico. She leads the USWNT in scoring with seven goals on the year and tallied a brace within the first eight minutes of the USA’s 5-0 victory over Jamaica. It was her third career multi-goal game. Smith previously scored a hat trick vs. Uzbekistan on April 9 and a brace vs. Colombia on June 25. She now has eight goals for her career and leads the USA with seven goals in 2022.
Mallory Pugh has found her dynamic form again and ranks second in the tournament with two assists. Her all-out two-way play has been impressive. She is expected to play a significant role in the upcoming knockout semifinal match.
The steady Horan continues to dominate the midfield. The Rush Colorado product has taken and delivered many hits in the tournament. More so, she has stepped up as the new field general since veteran Carli Lloyd stepped off the pitch. Horan has been playing through pain and swelling in her right knee. She sustained an injury late in her professional season while playing with Olympique Lyonnais. She also earned the nickname “Potato” because of her swollen knee.
This Thursday, the USWNT will face Group B's second-place finisher, Costa Rica, in the first semifinal. Canada will face Jamaica in the second game.
The US, Canada, Jamaica, and Costa Rica all earned semifinal berths and qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The four teams will now play for a berth to the 2024 Paris Olympics, which goes to the tournament winner. The second and third place finishers will playoff for Concacaf’s second and final Olympic berth in September 2023.