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Canada loses to the U.S. in penalty shootout in CONCACAF W Gold Cup semifinal

United States celebrate United States celebrate - The Canadian Press

SAN DIEGO — Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stopped three penalties and scored one herself to help the U.S. win a shootout after Canada rallied twice to tie it 2-2 after extra time in the CONCACAF W Gold Cup final on a dramatic, soggy night.

Lindsey Horan, Sophia Smith and Naeher scored from the spot for the second-ranked Americans. Quinn, who goes by one name, was the lone Canadian to score from the spot with Naeher denying Adriana Leon, Jordyn Huitema and Jessie Fleming.

American Korbin Albert sent her kick over the crossbar.

Canada came back twice with goals in the 82nd minute from Huitema and the 127th minute from Leon, also from the penalty spot.

Smith gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead with a 99th-minute goal. American Emily Sonnett pumped the ball forward and Rose Lavelle outjumped Canadian defenders Jade Rose and Vanessa Gilles to head it towards an unmarked Smith in the penalty box to hammer home.

Canada pressed in the dying moments and there was more late drama when Naeher took out Gilles as they both contested a high ball in the box, sending Mexican referee Katia Garcia to the pitchside monitor.

Garcia pointed to the penalty spot and Leon beat Naeher to tie it up for her sixth goal of the tournament

It had seemed like Canada's tournament would end in a 1-0 loss on a rain-drenched pitch at Snapdragon Stadium, thanks to teenager Jaedyn Shaw's 20th-minute goal.

But Huitema rescued Canada, heading home an Ashley Lawrence cross after some dogged work by Leon on the edge of the U.S. penalty box. It was Huitema's 21st goal in 78 appearance for Canada.

The Canadians kept coming and the U.S. was hanging on in second-half stoppage time.

Just moving the ball was an adventure, especially in the first half. Conditions improved as the rain subsided after halftime, which saw stadium workers use squeegees to reduce the surface water.

But the damage was done for Canada early as the 19-year-old Shaw became the first U.S. woman to score in her first four starts.

The second-ranked Americans will face No. 11 Brazil in Sunday's final at the same venue. The winner collects US$1 million in prize money with US$500,000 to the runner-up.

For 10th-ranked Canada, it was a disappointing end to the tournament on a night when the pitch prevented players from executing basic skills at times.

The conditions certainly played a part in Shaw's goal. Gilles' attempted back pass stopped halfway to goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and the chasing Shaw overtook the surprised defender and knocked the ball past an onrushing Sheridan, her teammate on the San Diego Wave.

The goal by Shaw, in her ninth U.S. appearance, was the first conceded by Canada at the tournament.

Canada captain Jessie Fleming appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty after going down in the 48th minute, seemingly after U.S. defender Tierna Davidson made contact in the penalty box.

How wet was it? Gilles was wringing water out of her jersey one minute into the game. And there were pools of water on the grass pitch slowing the ball down or stopping it completely.

In the 11th minute, American attacker Trinity Rodman had a jump on a Canadian defender and headed toward goal only to outrun the ball when it stopped moving. Every movement sent up a water spray.

Asked about the decision to go ahead with the game in such conditions, a CONCACAF spokesman said: "It is solely at the discretion of the referee as to whether the field is safe and playable."

Brazil blanked No. 35 Mexico 3-0 in the earlier semifinal.

Mexico was reduced to 10 players when defender Nicolette Hernandez, after video review, was sent off in the 30th minute for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity after Brazilian forward Bia Zaneratto was felled on the edge of the penalty box.

The U.S. were a step up in class for Canada after previous wins over No. 104 El Salvador, No. 50 Paraguay and No. 43 Costa Rica in Houston by a combined score of 13-0. Canada, the top seed in the knockout round, then met eighth-seeded Costa Rica again in Saturday's quarterfinal in Los Angeles, winning 1-0 after extra time.

The U.S. advanced as the fourth seed, with a 3-0 win over No. 23 Colombia, the fifth seed, on Sunday.

While the Canadians dispatched the Americans 1-0 in the Tokyo Olympic semifinal in August 2021, their career record against the U.S. before Wednesday was 4-53-7.

The U.S. had won the two previous meetings since Tokyo — 1-0 in the CONCACAF W final in July 2022 and 2-0 in the SheBelieves Cup in February 2023 (when the Canadians were at loggerheads with Canada Soccer over lack of progress in labour negotiations).

Canada coach Bev Priestman made two changes to her starting lineup with Simi Awujo and Deanne Rose coming in for Quinn and Huitema. It was a fourth start and 14th cap for the 20-year-old Awujo, who plays collegiately for USC.

The Atlanta-born Awujo, whose mother is Canadian, gave way to Huitema in the 56th minute. Quinn also came off the bench to earn cap No. 100.

The U.S., upset 2-0 by Mexico in the group stage, is a team in transition with Twila Kilgore serving as interim coach. Emma Hayes, currently in charge of England's Chelsea, is set to take over in June.

Wednesday's conditions literally put a damper on what has been a successful inaugural women's Gold Cup, which CONCACAF calls part of a "multimillion-dollar strategic investment" in women’s football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

CONCACAF provided each participating federation with "six-figure travel and preparation grants" as well as covering air charter costs, accommodation and ground transportation with "further financial distributions and prize money totalling $3.7 million (U.S.)."


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024