By Stephen Hunt | Oct. 25, 2018, 11 a.m. (ET)

Members of the U.S. women's soccer team celebrate a goal at the Concacaf Women's Championship on Oct. 17, 2018 in Frisco, Texas.

 

FRISCO, Texas — Last week, the U.S. women’s national soccer team crossed two big items off its to-do list: qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and defend its title at the Concacaf Women’s Championship.

On Sunday night, the U.S. accomplished goal number one with a 6-0 victory against Jamaica in a semifinal match of the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship at Toyota Stadium.

The U.S. scratched through its second objective on Wednesday with a hard-fought 2-0 win against Canada to win its second consecutive Concacaf Women’s Championship.

“Yeah, it feels really good. It feels like a starting point in terms of where we want to be,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said after the game. “In a tournament like this, it’s very much about sometimes just heart and will. Every game we’ve played this year, it’s about preparing us for next summer. This was a tremendous game that we’ll have a lot of takeaways for.”

Not only did the U.S. defend its tournament crown, but the Americans didn’t concede a single goal while scoring 26 of their own.

And for U.S. captain Megan Rapinoe, that performance shows just how strong their team chemistry is.

“Yeah, it’s pretty strong. We’ve had I guess really a full year with this consistent group,” Rapinoe said after the win against Canada. “We’ve been through a lot, been through a lot of harder times — games where we struggled, periods where we struggled. We’ve gone through some adversity while still being able to win games and find ways to grit out games. That should be a big help going forward in France (at the World Cup).”

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Ellis concurs with her captain that the squad’s cohesiveness will be an invaluable team weapon once the U.S. hits the pitch for the start of the Women’s World Cup next June.

“This group is a tight group. They genuinely enjoy playing together,” Ellis said. “There’s a fun about how we play, and they enjoy it, and they feed off of that. I’m so proud of them because (both) sides of the ball, we have great pride, even in our defending. They recognize our defending’s part of our attacking and vice versa. Our forwards are our first defending line, so it just feels like a very complete unit on the field.”

Another impressive number from the U.S. performance in repeating as the Concacaf Women’s Championship titleholder is 10, as in how many different players scored the 26 goals in the tournament.

That offensive balance shows how well the U.S. is playing as a team and is another great sign of strong chemistry going forward. 

“Over the past two, three years we’ve grown so much closer,” U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan said. “Now, we’re becoming closer than ever and this tournament (the Concacaf Women’s Championship) has brought us even closer. Going out and winning like we did and not getting any goals scored against us and staying as a team the whole time, that’s incredible and shows the true character of this team.”

Ellis is now into her third decade of coaching and knows that when a squad is a close as the U.S. women are, it’s much easier for everyone to be on the same page in terms of shared team goals.

And that’s clearly the case with this group as it embarks on preparing to repeat as FIFA Women’s World Cup champion.

“The beauty of when you work with elite people or athletes is they’re always looking for what’s next and they’re always pushing the envelope. I think as coaches, that’s the environment we want to create,” Ellis said. “I do believe we can get better at what we do in every facet of our game.

“The players are excited to go on this journey to see how good we can be. To get this done next summer, we certainly have to continue to make strides. It’s not going to be a smooth journey. It never is.”

Stephen Hunt is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.