Christine Sinclair reacts on the fieldAP Photo/Fernando Llano
AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Team Canada falls just short in Concacaf W Championship final vs. USA

The long-running women’s soccer rivalry between Canada and the USA produced another memorable and consequential clash on Monday night.

The Americans prevailed 1-0 on a late penalty kick in the final of the Concacaf W Championship, earning their revenge after Canada’s very similar victory in the semifinals at Tokyo 2020.

This competition served as the qualification tournament for both next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and Paris 2024. Canada earned a World Cup berth by virtue of a top-four finish, but only the USA has guaranteed itself a spot at the next Olympic Games by winning the final.

Canada will have one more chance to qualify for Paris via a play-in game against Jamaica in September 2023. The Jamaicans defeated Costa Rica in the tournament’s third-place match earlier on Monday.

A hard-fought final

The Canadians and Americans came into the final with identical records: four wins from four games with 12 goals scored and none conceded. Canada had been in calm control throughout the vast majority of its previous four matches.

But against the Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, it was a much different story.

Within the game’s first minute, Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan had to show quick hands to deny American striker Mallory Pugh from close range. Three minutes later, Alex Morgan sent Sheridan sprawling again, but her shot curled just past the goal post.

The Canadians had their early chances as well, courtesy of Nichelle Prince. The 27-year-old had several shots on goal from the left side, including a 17th-minute effort that deflected off an American defender and then the crossbar.

Things then settled into a back-and-forth possession battle, with both teams seeking ways to unlock the opposing defence.

Pugh had another quality chance in the 31st minute, capping off a 50-yard attacking run with a well-hit shot. But Sheridan was equal to it, lunging to grab the ball out of mid-air. Pugh had an even better opportunity 10 minutes later. A turnover in midfield gave the Americans a 4-on-2 rush, but she put her shot over Sheridan’s crossbar.

Sheridan came up big again just before halftime in a goal-area scramble with American striker Sophia Smith. The ball bounced around near the goal line but Sheridan, with some help from defender Kadeisha Buchanan, kept it out of the net.

Leaving it late

The USA ratcheted up the pressure in the second half and it nearly paid off in the 64th minute, as Morgan put Smith in on goal with an excellent through ball. Smith found her way around a charging Sheridan but put her final shot into the side netting.

As she’d done in earlier games, Canadian head coach Priestman brought on the attack-minded trio of Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema and Adriana Leon as second-half substitutes. But it was the Americans who continued peppering the Canadian goal with dangerous opportunities.

The dam finally burst in the 76th minute when Allysha Chapman, who’d also entered as a substitute for the injured Jayde Riviere, was adjudged to have fouled Rose Lavelle inside the penalty area.

Morgan stepped up to take the penalty kick and, as she’s done before in her career, broke Canadian hearts by scoring the winning goal.

Canada threw everything they had at the Americans in the game’s final 10 minutes. Jessie Fleming unleashed a long-range effort in the 84th minute, but it was handled by American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

In the 88th minute, Huitema got her head onto a long cross from Chapman, but put it just over Naeher’s goal. That was as close as Canada would come, as the Americans ran out the clock with substitutions and mindful possession.

While the team didn’t achieve its goal of Olympic qualification, a pair of Canadians were recognized for individual achievements. Grosso was named the tournament’s top goal scorer, while Sheridan was awarded the honour of best goalkeeper.