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USWNT back on track, headed to Gold Cup semis

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Sunday, 03 March 2024 22:33

The United States women's national team bounced back from a shocking loss to Mexico in its previous Concacaf Gold Cup match to make short work of Colombia in a 3-0 quarterfinal win Sunday night at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles.

First-half goals from Lindsay Horan, Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw gave the U.S. a comfortable lead at halftime, and it shut Colombia down in the second half to set up a showdown with Canada on Wednesday at the inaugural Women's Gold Cup.

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It was a strong statement from interim coach Twila Kilgore's U.S. team after it had lost 2-0 to Mexico in the final game of group stage play on Feb. 26, turning in an impressive performance against a Colombia side that had reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 Women's World Cup.

"I think we always have bite, but I think tonight part of the key was to play in their third because anytime it's this don't want to put a referee in a situation where they're asked to potentially make those calls closer to your goal," Kilgore said after the match. "That was a big identifying factor for us today and part of that is being on the front foot defensively and locking them into an area where you hope to win the ball."

Kilgore made numerous changes to the starting lineup that featured in the loss to Mexico -- a first U.S. defeat by its neighbors to the south since 2010 -- with Shaw, Korbin Albert and Alex Morgan all in the XI after being used as substitutes Monday.

And the changes worked to perfection in the opening 45 minutes.

Horan started the scoring from the penalty spot after Colombia's Jorelyn Carabalí took down Morgan in the area, and Nighswonger doubled the lead for the U.S. with a well-struck shot 10 minutes later from a loose ball that fell to her in front of goal.

United States players celebrate after scoring a goal against Colombia in the Women's Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Getty Images

"We knew it would be a big physical battle and you're always looking early on in the game to see how the referees are gonna...what their choices are going to be early on and how that affects the game," Kilgore said. "I thought we did a really good job of dealing with the physicality, matching physicality and imposing ourselves, but also being very mindful."

Nineteen-year-old Shaw netted in first-half stoppage time for her fifth goal in eight appearances for the U.S., beating her defender to Trinity Rodman's cross and stabbing home to give the Americans a 3-0 lead at the break.

With her goal, Shaw joined Shannon Boxx as the only players in U.S. history to score in each of their first three international starts. The Americans' attack has been markedly more impressive in this tournament when the speedy, creative Shaw, who plays for San Diego's NWSL team, is on the field.

Although it had no goals to show for it, the U.S. continued to dominate throughout the second half and easily saw out the result to book a spot in the semifinals.

The U.S. hadn't conceded a goal to a Concacaf opponent in its previous 33 matches before Mexico scored twice against it, but goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and a defense led by Naomi Girma got the Americans back to clean sheets against Colombia. Naeher posted her 43rd shutout during a decade on the U.S. team, including one particularly stellar save in the first half from a long-range shot by Real Madrid teenager Linda Caicedo.

"We genuinely didn't do anything different [in preparation]," Kilgore said when asked about what adjustments were made after the loss to Mexico. "That's the key to being able to be part of this program, is to be able to show up when it's going well, show up when it's not going so well and be the same player and execute in the same ways.

"It's really just about regrouping from obviously a tough moment and identifying not just how we want to grow and some of the things that we need to fix, but also directly related to our next opponent."

Brazil will play Mexico, which beat Paraguay 3-2 in Sunday's earlier game, in the other semifinal, with the two winners facing off in the final next Sunday in San Diego.

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