United States 2-2 Canada (Mar 6, 2024) Game Analysis

Alyssa Naeher saved three penalty attempts and made one herself as the United States beat Canada in a shootout to earn a hard-fought win at rain-soaked Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego on Wednesday night to set up a showdown with Brazil in the Concacaf W Gold Cup final.

Heavy rains before kickoff left the field covered in standing water, making the movement of the ball — if it rolled at all — extremely unpredictable in the semifinal meeting of the two North American soccer rivals, who traded goals in regular time and then extra time as the match ended 2-2 ahead of the shootout.

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“I’m really proud of the team tonight in such tough conditions against a really tough opponent,” Naeher said after the match. “We’ll enjoy this win tonight and rest and recover and get ready for Brazil and try to be ready to come out and execute and build on this performance.”

The game began despite the conditions, and Jaedyn Shaw took advantage of a back pass by the Canada defense that stopped short of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan because of the waterlogged surface to open the scoring for the U.S. in the 20th minute.

With the goal, Shaw became the first U.S. player to score in each of her first four starts, and also brought her total number of goals scored at the W Gold Cup to four.

Squeegees were brought out at half-time as the rain subsided. A Concacaf spokesperson told ESPN: “It is solely at the discretion of the referee as to whether the field is safe and playable.”

USWNT players celebrate after beating Canada in a penalty shootout at the W Gold Cup.
USWNT players celebrate after beating Canada in a penalty shootout at the W Gold Cup.

Although the conditions on the field were a slight improvement from the first half, neither team was able to mount any kind of organized attack on goal after the break until Canada’s Ashley Lawrence picked up a ball on the right flank and floated in a perfect cross that Jordyn Huitema headed past Naeher to send the game to extra time.

In the first period of extra time Rose Lavelle flicked a header into Canada’s penalty area, and Sophia Smith was there to pounce, calmly curling a first-time shot past Sheridan for what looked like the game-winning goal.

But Naeher collided with Vanessa Gilles toward the end of extra time and, after a look at the pitchside monitor, the referee awarded Canada a penalty, which Adriana Leon converted to send the game to a shootout.

Smith, Lindsey Horan and Naeher all converted their spot kicks, and when Naeher saved her third, it sealed a 3-1 shootout win for the Americans.

The win improved the USWNT’s record in knockout games against Canada to 12-1-1, with the only loss for the Americans coming at the semifinals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The U.S. now plays Brazil, which beat Mexico 3-0 earlier on Wednesday, in the final on Sunday at Snapdragon Stadium.

With Brazil’s victory, the U.S. was denied a revenge match against Mexico, which pulled off the biggest upset of the group stage in downing the Americans 2-0. It was just the second time the U.S. had lost to their southern neighbors in 43 meetings.

Interim coach Twila Kilgore’s team rebounded from that loss with a 3-0 victory over Colombia in the quarterfinals. Canada, which scored 13 goals in its group without conceding a goal, got by Costa Rica 1-0 in extra time in its quarterfinal match.

It was Canada’s first major tournament without captain Christine Sinclair, who retired from the national team last year as soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer among men or women with 190 career goals.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.