(L-R) Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan pose for a photo with their trophies after winning the Concacaf Women's Championship on Oct. 17, 2018 in Frisco, Texas.
FRISCO, Texas – The two-minute mark has been simply magical for the U.S. women’s national soccer team in its past two matches.
In Sunday’s 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship semifinal against Jamaica, Tobin Heath scored off a rebound in the second minute, and the U.S. went on to a 6-0 victory to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
And in Wednesday’s final, it was Rose Lavelle who gave the U.S. an early lead with a goal two minutes in. Lavelle curled a left-footed shot from the top of the arc inside the far post, just out of reach of a diving Stephanie Labbe. Lavelle’s third goal of the tournament came off an attempted Canada clearance.
“In terms of how you want to start a game and get that early lift, it is a great feeling,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said of Lavelle’s goal. “Sometimes an early goal can actually be to your detriment because you take your foot off the gas and you become more conservative trying to protect the lead."
“That’s something we talked about at halftime. Let’s make sure we’re on the front foot. Let’s make sure we’re the aggressor in terms of trying to get that second goal. It came late, but I knew it was going to be the backbreaker if we could get it.”
Until Alex Morgan scored her tournament-leading seventh goal – one more than Canada’s Adriana Leon – in the 89th minute off a corner kick, Lavelle’s tally nearly stood up as the lone goal for the U.S., which won its eighth Concacaf Women’s Championship title, 2-0.
The U.S. now has a 26-game unbeaten streak and is 7-0 against Canada in the tournament, including a 5-0 mark against Canada in the finals.
“It was very physical, and Canada brought exactly what we thought they would,” U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan said. “The whole 90 minutes was a physical game and we had to match it and bring more to the table. It was a difficult game all around and one I think we were able to come out of it alive, so it was great.”
In the 24th minute, Canada had a great chance to pull things level off a free kick, but U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher delivered an outstanding diving save at the far post to deny Kadeisha Buchanan’s shot from the middle of the box.
“Yeah, we wanted a better team challenge, which we definitely got. They created a couple good chances,” U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe said. “It was more of a physical challenge than any of the other games. They’re disruptive. They press really well and keep the ball on one side of the field. If you have trouble breaking that, then it’s going to be a tough game.”
The U.S., which has now won back-to-back Concacaf Women’s Championships and seeks a repeat title in the Women’s World Cup, remains unbeaten in 2018 at 16-0-2.
In the tournament, the U.S. didn’t concede a goal, outscoring its foes 26-0 with ten different players finding the back of the net.
“Yeah, I think (that balance) is great because we don’t rely on just one person to score and get on the score sheet. We have a ton of different threats,” Lavelle said. “I feel like anybody on our team is capable of scoring and it’s awesome. It’s a great thing to have.”
Earlier in the day, Jamaica qualified for the Women’s World Cup as Concacaf’s third representative, edging Panama 4-2 on penalties after play finished in a 2-2 draw in the tournament’s third-place game. Panama will face Argentina in a playoff to try and grab a fourth Concacaf World Cup berth.