USWNT to face Brazil in W Gold Cup final at Snapdragon


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This Wednesday, March 6, the CONCACAF W Gold Cup semifinals were held at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, as Brazil faced Mexico and the USWNT played Canada. The first of the two games was Brazil vs. Mexico at a 4:00 p.m. local time start in a match where Brazil was the heavy favorite, but Mexico was the dark horse of this tournament and showcased plenty of potential.

Mexico had a historical run in this tournament, defeating the USWNT 2-0 in the group stage and finishing top of Group A. However, in this semifinal match, El Tri felt the pressure and ended up losing the match 3-0 to Brazil. The first goal of the game in the 21st minute when Adriana capitalized on a fatal error by Mexican goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras, who came out on a cross and was unable to hold onto the ball. Adriana jumped on the loose ball, and this goal set the tone for the match, with several other miscues coming after it.

In the 29th minute, Nicolette Hernandez received a red card after tackling Brazil’s Bia Zaneratto just outside of the penalty area. The VAR decision was controversial, and after this, Mexico never really was able to get back into the game, with Antonia Silva scoring in the 32nd minute. Yasmin put the nail in the coffin in the 48th minute to make it 3-0, and after a brilliant run in the tournament and plenty of local support at Snapdragon Stadium, Mexico was eliminated from the W Gold Cup.

Considering the horrible weather, start time, and day of the week, there was a very impressive crowd at Snapdragon Stadium, with a reported crowd of 15,245 spectators. Well, over 10 thousand fans were in attendance for the Mexico game, with nonstop support for the El Tri ladies throughout the 90 minutes.

Some disappointed fans left the stadium, but even more showed up for the spectacle that would be the match between the United States and Canada. The weather in San Diego was getting unbearable for local standards, with heavy rain sweeping the county and specifically damaging the field of play at Snapdragon Stadium. When USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore was asked whether this game should have been played, her response was “probably not” due to the very rough state of the pitch.

The first half was almost unplayable with puddles of water stopping the run of play constantly and really making it difficult for the players with several rough challenges as well. The USWNT was basically gifted the first goal of the match in the 20th minute when Vanessa Gilles tried to pass the ball back to goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, but the water on the pitch decreased the velocity of the sphere, and Jaedyn Shaw used her speed to get to the ball and put it in the back of the net.

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Shaw was surprisingly replaced at the start of the second half by Lynn Williams, and Casey Kruger also replaced Jenna Nighswonger. At half-time, the grounds crew at Snapdragon Stadium cleared some of the accumulated water off the pitch, but the condition of the field was still very poor. The second half of the match was much worse than the first, but Canada made a key change in the 56th minute when Jordyn Huitema came on for Simi Awujo.

Huitema has scored at Snapdragon Stadium in the past and did it yet again in the 82nd minute when she headed a ball past Alyssa Naeher off a cross by Ashley Lawrence. Regulation time ended 1-1, and both teams were absolutely exhausted heading into extra time after a very physical clash in this semifinal fixture. Sophia Smith ended up giving the USWNT a lead in the 99th minute with a shot in front of the net after a pass by Rose Lavelle, but extra time ended with heavy controversy. A penalty was called for Canada in the last second of the match after a foul by Alyssa Naeher inside of the box, and Adriana Leon finished the opportunity to send the game to a penalty shootout.

Alyssa Naeher essentially was responsible for sending the game to a shootout, but also came out as the hero of the game with three penalty saves and even scoring a penalty of her own. Naeher shockingly took the third penalty for the U.S. in the shootout and successfully converted it as well. The United States took a 3-1 win on penalties in this one and will be back to face Brazil in the final of the W Gold Cup this Sunday, March 10.

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