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U.S. defeats Canada in penalty shootout to win SheBelieves Cup final

Canada Kadeisha Buchanan United States Lindsey Horan Kadeisha Buchanan Lindsey Horan - The Canadian Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Canada leaves the SheBelieves Cup with a runner-up medal and likely nightmares involving Alyssa Naeher.

The veteran U.S. goalkeeper, as she did last month against the Canadian women in the CONCACAF W Gold Cup semifinal, rose to the occasion in a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Canada in the SheBelieves Cup final Tuesday.

The fourth-ranked U.S. had seemed headed for a 2-1 comeback victory over ninth-ranked Canada thanks to two second-half goals by Sophia Smith.

But Trinidad and Tobago referee Crystal Sobers pointed to the spot after veteran Crystal Dunn took down Adriana Leon in the American penalty box. Leon, who had scored in the first half, stepped up and beat Naeher in the 86th minute for her 39th goal in 118 U.S. appearances.

Jessie Fleming, Leon, Julia Grosso and Ashley Lawrence scored for Canada in the shootout. Naeher stopped Jade Rose, Cloe Lacasse and Evelyne Viens.

Smith, Naeher, Lindsey Horan, Abby Dahlkemper and Emily Fox scored from the spot for the U.S. Kailen Sheridan stopped Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett, with a chance to win it for the U.S., sent the ball over the crossbar.

Dahlkemper had to score to keep the Americans in it in the sixth round. She did and, after Naeher stopped Viens in the seventh round, Fox beat Sheridan for the 5-4 win.

"I'm proud of the group," said Canada coach Bev Priestman. "(We had) some key players out. People stepped up and we took it to the wire. … It was a great game."

"I did think that there were moments that looked really really bright. I would just like to see more of them," she added.

In the earlier game Tuesday at Field, No. 10 Brazil defeated No. 7 Japan 3-1 in a penalty shootout after the game finished tied at 1-1. Brazilian 'keeper Lorena saved all three penalties she faced.

The Canadians had dispatched Brazil 4-2 in a penalty shootout in Saturday's semifinal at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The U.S. downed Japan 2-1.

The American women have now won seven of the nine editions of the SheBelieves Cup, including five straight. The U.S. was runner-up to England in 2019 and finished fourth in 2017 when France won.

Canada had previously taken part in the four-country invitational tournament twice, finishing third in 2021 and fourth in 2023.

After Leon put Canada ahead in the 40th minute, goals by Smith in the 50th and 68th minutes gave the Americans the lead.

With her second-half penalty, Leon becomes the fourth Canadian player to score multiple goals in a match against the U.S. women, joining Geraldine Donnelly, Charmaine Hooper (who did it twice) and Christine Sinclair.

It was an all-action ending.

Leon almost notched her hat trick in the 89th minute but Naeher parried her hard shot from distance. Defender Kadeisha Buchanan's header off the ensuing corner hit the crossbar.

Horan's free kick flashed just wide in the 93rd minute.

The U.S. had 61 per cent possession and outshot Canada 12-9 (5-4 in shots on target).

Canada was looking to avenge the penalty shootout loss to the U.S. on a waterlogged field in San Diego on March 6. Naeher stopping three spot kicks and scored one herself to end a Canadian comeback after Priestman's team rallied twice to tie it 2-2 after extra time.

Naeher has stopped penalties from six different Canadians in the two shootout wins. The 35-year-old Chicago Red Stars 'keeper, who has 104 U.S. caps, is now a seven-time SheBelieves Cup champion with nine career shutouts at the tournament.

"It's incredible. … She's prepared for every PK she could possibly face," Twila Kilgore said after her final game as U.S. interim coach.

Former Chelsea coach Emma Hayes takes charge in early June for a pair of matches against South Korea with Kilgore reverting to her role as assistant coach.

Smith was named tournament MVP.

Conditions were far better Tuesday than last month in San Diego with a temperature of 17 C at kickoff. So were the Canadians, who went ahead late in the first half when Naeher could not clear a Jade Rose long ball destined for Lawrence.

The U.S. 'keeper was forced to come out with the Canadian wingback outpacing defender Tierna Davidson as she steamed toward the American penalty box. Naeher and Lawrence collided with the ball bouncing off Naeher's leg back to Deanne Rose who sent it into the box for Leon, whose shot went through defender Dahlkemper's legs with Naeher out of position.

The U.S. had 64 per cent possession in the first half but only put one shot on target compared to two for Canada.

Smith pulled the Americans even in the 50th minute, beating Sheridan with a well-placed low shot from just outside the penalty box after the Canadians, despite several attempts, were unable to clear the ball. Sheridan had trouble finding the ball through traffic.

Smith made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, converting a feed from Rodman as the Canadian defence was carved open by some deft U.S. passing. It marked the Portland Thorns forward's sixth multi-goal game in 46 appearances for the U.S.

The American women lead the all-time series with Canada 54-4-8 and have won seven of the last nine meetings between the teams, including both previous meetings between the teams at the SheBelieves Cup.

The Canadians, however, dispatched the Americans 1-0 in semifinal play at the Tokyo Olympics, with Fleming converting a 75th-minute penalty.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2024.