U.S. blanks Canada to finish atop Group B at CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship
TOLUCA, Mexico — The defending champion United States blanked Canada 5-0 Tuesday to finish atop Group B at the CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship.
Canada (2-1-0) will now face unbeaten Mexico, the Group A winner, in Friday's semifinal with a berth in the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup on the line. The U.S. take on Haiti, the Group A runner-up, in the other semifinal.
The Americans (3-0-0) dominated play but only led 1-0 at the break despite outshooting Canada 16-1 (9-0 in shots on target). The U.S. hit the woodwork three times in the first half and kept Canadian goalkeeper Noelle Henning busy.
The U.S. broke the game open in the second half with goals in the 51st, 57th, 59th and 73rd minute.
The Americans outshot Canada 29-1 (15-0 in shots on target) on the day and brought on goalkeeper Franky Dunlap with six minutes remaining for her first appearance of the tournament.
Mexico blanked Haiti 4-0 Monday to finish atop Group A. The hosts beat Costa Rica and El Salvador earlier in pool play.
The CONCACAF U-17 championship usually sends three teams to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. But only two will qualify from this year's event because the Dominican Republic, a CONCACAF member, is hosting the soccer showcase in October-November.
Melanie Barcenas, Alex Pfeiffer, Leena Powell, captain Kennedy Fuller and Y-Lan Nguyen scored for the U.S., which went into Tuesday's match ahead of Canada in the standings with a better goal difference (plus-15 compared to plus-nine), thanks to its opening 13-0 win over Panama.
Barcenas, a midfielder, and Pfeiffer, a forward, are just 16 but are already professional players with the NWL's San Diego Wave and Kansas City Current, respectively.
The U.S. has won five of the seven CONCACAF U-17 championships held to date, including the last three. Canada won the title in 2010 and Mexico in 2013.
The Americans came into the game with a 37-0-2 all-time record at the CONCACAF U-17 tournament (the two draws turned into penalty shootout losses), outscoring their opposition 233-11. Canada has never scored on the U.S. at the tournament.
Having both beaten Puerto Rico and Panama, the North American rivals were already assured of a semifinal berth at the eight-team tournament that is taking place at the well-appointed headquarters of the Mexican Football Federation in Toluca.
As such, Canada coach Emma Humphries made seven changes to her starting lineup with only Henning, Keira Martin, Kaylee Hunter and Victoria Rocci retaining their spots from the 11 that beat Panama 5-1 Sunday.
Henning captained the side in place of star forward Annabelle Chukwu, who scored four goals in the first two games. Chukwu and twin sister Isabel, who turn 17 on Thursday, came on in the 67th minute.
U.S. coach Katie Schoepfer made nine changes to her starting lineup — as she did for Sunday's 3-1 win over Puerto Rico. Fuller, who scored five goals against Panama in the Americans' 13-0 opening win, was one of the returning players.
It was 17 C, feeling like 22 C, for the noon local time kickoff
The U.S. pressed from the get-go and went ahead in the ninth minute when Barcenas, taking a layoff from Fuller, hammered a rising right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box past a diving Henning.
Canada lost a bloodied Rocci in the 41st minute to a concussion substitution after the midfielder was forced to leave after taking a ball to the face.
Pfeiffer, Powell, Fuller and Nguyen kept the scoreboard ticking in the second half.
Canada has appeared in all seven previous editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, with a fourth-place finish in 2018 its best showing. The Canadian women finished 12th last time out in India in 2022 when they failed to advance out of the group stage with an 0-1-2 record.
CONCACAF covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024