Alex Morgan’s 78th-minute penalty gave the U.S. a 1-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF W Championship final Monday, sending the Americans to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The final in Monterrey, Mexico marked the first meeting between the two North American powers since Aug. 2, 2021, when Canada won 1-0 on a 75th-minute Jessie Fleming penalty in the Tokyo Olympics semifinal. The Canadian women went on to claim gold in a penalty shootout win over Sweden while the Americans settled for bronze after beating Australia.
This time the U.S. got the penalty.
American pressure paid off in the second half when Mexican referee Katia Garcia pointed to the penalty spot after Rose Lavelle went down after contact from substitute Allysha Chapman. Morgan stepped up and beat Kailen Sheridan for her 118th international goal.
As CONCACAF champion, the Americans qualify for both the Olympics and inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, also scheduled for 2024.
WATCH | U.S. defeats Canada to secure Olympic spot:
Other route to Paris
Olympic champion Canada can still get to Paris but will have to dispatch No. 51 Jamaica in a CONCACAF Olympic play-in series, scheduled for September 2023, with the winner booking their ticket to the Olympics and Gold Cup. The Canadians blanked Jamaica 3-0 in the CONCACAF semifinal.
Substitute Kiki Van Zanten’s 102nd-minute goal gave Jamaica a 1-0 victory over No. 37 Costa Rica in the third-place game earlier Monday at Estadio BBVA.
All four CONCACAF W semifinalists have already booked their ticket to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand by virtue of making the tournament final four. No. 60 Haiti and No. 57 Panama, who placed third in their respective groups, move on to a World Cup intercontinental playoff.
Canada will play Jamaica in a Concacaf Play-off to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games in September ’23 🍁<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeCAN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeCAN</a> <a href=”https://t.co/alXxSlan02″>pic.twitter.com/alXxSlan02</a>
The top-ranked U.S. had the better chances in the first half and had slightly more possession than sixth-ranked Canada but could not beat goalkeeper Sheridan and the teams went into the break scoreless.
The Americans picked up the pace in the second half, continuing to be dangerous on the counterattack after winning the ball back. The Canadians found themselves under the gun for stretches.
After going down, the Canadians found renewed energy and came at the Americans, but could not breach the U.S. defence through six minutes of stoppage time.
The U.S. improved to 52-4-7 record against the Canadians — 9-0-1 in World Cup and Olympic qualifying, with every meeting coming in the final of the tournament.
The U.S. roster has undergone a major turnover since Tokyo.
Only five American players who started against Canada at the Olympics were in the starting lineup Monday — goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Lindsey Horan, Lavelle and Morgan.
In contrast, nine of Canada’s starting 11 from that Olympic semifinal started Monday. A 10th, Chapman, came on in the 61st minute. The only Olympic starter missing was goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who has since retired.
The Canadian starters — unchanged from Thursday’s semifinal win over Jamaica — came into the game with a combined 1,171 caps with Christine Sinclair making her 315th appearance. The U.S. starting 11 had a combined 849 caps with Sauerbrunn leading the way, earning her 207th cap.
WATCH | Canada shuts out Jamaica to reach final:
Both teams had stretches of possession in the first half with the U.S. having the edge in chances.
The Americans started quickly with Mallory Pugh forcing a save by Sheridan in the first minute. Three minutes later, Morgan shot just wide. The Canadians responded with a pair of early Nichelle Prince shots that did not trouble Naeher.
Prince beat two American defenders in the 17th minute, earning a corner with her ensuing deflected shot. Sheridan was forced to punch away a dangerous U.S. cross in the 23rd.
Sheridan made a diving save to deny Pugh in the 31st minute after a surging run by the American forward.
The Americans’ best chance was in the 39th when the Americans, on a rapid-fire counterattack, had a four-on-two rush only to see Pugh’s shot squib high and wide. Two minutes later, Canadian fullback Jayde Riviere got a saving head to a cross with an American attacker waiting behind her.
The half ended with the Americans threatening. Sheridan and centre back Kadeisha Buchanan somehow combined in a tangle of bodies on the goal line to stop Sophia Smith from poking in a low Sofia Huerta cross that had eluded sliding defender Vanessa Gilles.
The U.S. had an 8-3 edge in shots (3-2 in shots on target) in the first half.
Smith had a glorious chance in the 64th when a through ball put her behind the Canadian defence. She rounded Sheridan but could not put the ball on target from a tight angle.
The Americans came into the final on a 10-game winning streak, outscoring the opposition 45-1, and were unbeaten in 17 games (14-0-3) since the Olympics. The Canadian women were unbeaten in their last seven outings (5-0-2) and were 8-2-4 since Tokyo.
The U.S. women’s record in CONCACAF remains almost flawless. They have won all five Olympic qualifying tournaments in which they have participated and eight of nine World Cup qualifying tournaments. The lone blemish was 2010 when the Americans lost to Mexico in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying.
The Americans went into Monday’s final with a 59-1-1 record in World Cup and Olympic qualifying matches. The draw came against Canada in the final of the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament although the U.S. prevailed on penalty kicks to win the tournament.
Canada and the U.S. had met in five of the previous 10 CONCACAF women’s finals, with the U.S. winning all five.
The Canadian women won the CONCACAF tournament in 1998 (when the U.S. did not take part as host of the 1999 Women’s World Cup) and 2010, beating Mexico in the final both times. The Americans have won the other eight editions, including the last two.
Nine different Americans had scored en route to the final compared to eight for Canada.
The U.S. won Group A by defeating Haiti 3-0, Jamaica 5-0 and No. 26 Mexico 1-0. Canada finished atop Group B after blanking No. 76 Trinidad and Tobago 6-0, No. 57 Panama 1-0 and Costa Rica 2-0.
Fleming and Grosso came into the final tied with Jamaica’s Bunny Show for the tournament scoring lead with three goals apiece. Morgan, Smith and Kristie Mewis led the U.S. with two apiece.