The United States women’s national team completed perhaps the most understated streak towards World Cup qualifying in its illustrious history after beating Jamaica 5-0 at the CONCACAF W Championship on Thursday.
That’s saying something given the US women’s historic dominance in CONCACAF – where they’ve won 13 straight World Cup qualifiers by a 58-0 aggregate score. But the current format, with the top two teams from the two groups automatically qualifying for the 2023 World Cup while the two third-placed teams advance to the playoffs, means there will be no eliminator drama, at least for the US
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And after Haiti defeated hosts Mexico 3-0 later on Thursday, the USA head into their group stage finals against an eliminated El Tri Femenil having already bought his ticket to Australia and New Zealand.
That’s not to say their job is done. The CONCACAF W Championship doubles as the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament and USA must win the competition to automatically win the trip to Paris while the second- and third-placed teams advance to the playoffs.
But at least as far as the World Cup is concerned, the US team is on the right track and Thursday’s performance was absolutely dominant. Sophia Smith gave USA a two-goal lead in under eight minutes and a weary Jamaica said he didn’t struggle much after that. Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis and Trinity Rodman all scored in the second half, and the defense, which featured Lindsey Horan in front of central defenders – and former college teammates at Stanford – Naomi Girma and Alana Cook were rarely matched by Jamaica’s frontline Manchester City striker Bunny Shaw worries leadership US keeper Alyssa Naeher only had to make two saves.
“There was never any fear of us and I felt we did a very good job of protecting the space behind us, protecting and repelling balls [Bunny] Shaw and shield them very well,” said USA coach Vlatko Andonovski. “So we were able to protect everything they had in the previous game and do a good job.”
For Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson, the sight of Smith tearing up the opponent was a familiar sight. Along with US forward Mallory Pugh, Smith played for Donaldson while he was playing at youth club Real Colorado. She certainly didn’t make it easy for her former mentor. Her first goal in particular was stunning as he sliced in from the right wing and then curled the ball into the net with the outside of her right foot.
“I always want him to be okay,” Smith told CBS Paramount after the match. “But when it’s against us, yes, it’s quite fun. It’s fun to be in a relationship and of course to see him on the sidelines I wish him the best. But we had to take care of the business.”
For Donaldson, the ties that bind him to both players are still strong.
“They are like families. We are still a family,” he said at his post-match press conference. “They give [Smith] half a chance, she will take it; excellent footballer, so I expect nothing less from her.”
Donaldson was less kind to his own team, who struggled to string many passes together and were forced to defend for long stretches. Jamaica now face Haiti in the group stage final.
“We were very s—y, so we didn’t play well,” he said. “We’re not going to play the world champions, play so badly and expect something good to come out of the game. We weren’t good.”
US performances are always rated on an unforgiving scale given the team’s talent and history. And after the team’s opening 3-0 win over Haiti, there were still many questions about America’s ability to handle athletic, mobile squads. But this was an occasion where Andonovski found very little to fault. The USA were aggressive from the outside, and the tandem of Smith and Sofia Huerta (who set up Smith’s second goal) on the right attacked Jamaica relentlessly.
The evening’s unlucky attacker was striker Ashley Hatch, who called off a goal for a questionable offside and hit the woodwork twice. Even then she ran unselfishly to make room for others. And given that the US was the luckiest, Andonovski couldn’t bring himself to be overly critical.
“We won the game 5-0, scored two or three offside positions. We’ll create another 12 chances to score,” he said. “I think it would be crazy to say that some of the attacking players didn’t do well. They all contributed in different ways. They were all dangerous in different ways. And now the only thing I want.” I would like to say for everyone that I would just like to see them be a little more clinical on the final touches or finishing and eventually stick to the site.
Even with World Cup qualification secured, Sunday’s group stage final is expected to be anything but reserved. It was Mexico that last beat USA in a World Cup qualifier in 2010, when a 2-1 loss forced USA to win the third-place play-off and eventual playoff against Italy, which they won 2-0 on aggregate .
“We’re starting to focus on Mexico now,” Smith said. “Apparently, [Mexico is] a great team. It’s a rivalry and I think we have to come out with the same energy, if not more, and just do what we have to do.”
https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usaw/story/4696472/uswnt-are-methodically-marching-toward-another-concacaf-title—-and-another-world-cup-spot USWNT are methodically marching toward another CONCACAF title — and another World Cup spot